The Hobbit; An Unexpected Journey is a Epic Fantasy Adventure film, which was originally released in 2012, and was directed by Peter Jackson (The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy). The screenplay was written by Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens, Fran Walsh, and Guillermo del Toro, and has a running time of 169 minutes. The movie has an ensemble cast featuring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Sylvester McCoy, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, James Nesbitt and Stephen Hunter. This is Number Five in the ‘500 Films A Year Challenge’.
The Lord Of The Ring series are three of my favorite movies of all time. I gladly would spend a day sat watching all three extended editions of Jackson’s magnum opus. I even find myself preferring the movies to the book, whilst J.R.R. Tolkien was a unique talent with great intelligence, The Lord Of The Rings books are actually quite bloated, with a lot of the book dedicated to elements I find unneeded, such as descriptions of flowers, endless songs, entire character histories of minor characters, etc. For me, Jackson peels out the fat from the books, and creates beautiful worlds of adventure and wonder. And yet, The Hobbit as a book is the complete opposite: it’s too thin. There are scenes I remember reading, where Tolkien just speeds through interesting elements. I especially remember two sentences would be devoted to Mountain Giants battling in the storm, and I remember thinking, “Wait, go back, don’t just randomly stick that in, use it!” Here, Jackson takes all these minuscule moments, and expands upon them to create a more epic adventure. Therefore, unlike many people, I’m quite open to the film trilogy, and couldn’t wait for the first movie. I finally sat down to watch it on Boxing Day, and in fact, went to see it again, with my cousin Orla, who hadn’t seen the movie, on the 4th January.
If you enjoy The Lord Of The Rings series because of the action, you’re out of luck. This probably has the smallest amount of action, and instead is dedicated mostly to character. If, like me, you love the characters and Middle-Earth, then you would be extremely happy. Here, I was over-enjoyed as the majority of the first hour is dedicated to the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), having his comfy live in The Shire shattered by Gandalf The Grey (Ian McKellen) and a Company of Dwarves. By giving us time to understand the comforts Bilbo enjoys, and giving us time to get used to who the Dwarves are, it makes the moment when Bilbo decides to join the Company have more impact, as we appreciate how out of place he is. Instead of being told the Dwarves are rough and that Bilbo likes comforts, we SEE it, just like film should do, and it works. It also helps that unlike the book, Bilbo, as portrayed by Freeman and created by Jackson and company, has actual character motivation and even an arc. This first movie is about Bilbo coming to terms with the journey he is venturing on, it is the growing of Bilbo as a person, so he becomes a valued member of the group, and Freeman deserves a lot of platitudes for this. He comes across as natural, he looks the part, he succeeds at both the slapstick and the emotional empathy, with the infamous scene with Gollum and The Riddles In The Dark (a wonderfully magical scene) especially displaying Freeman’s talent, especially in reference to ‘pity’. Freeman also does well conveying the idea of being a ‘reluctant warrior’.
Some of the examples of expanding upon the novel helping the movie, include the expansion of Radagast The Brown (Sylvester McCoy), an enjoyable inclusion who helps broaden the Universe of Middle-Earth, as well as offer a connection between this series, and The Lord Of The Rings series. Radagast also helps explain some of the absences Gandalf has within the novel, which I liked. Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield is probably the biggest recipient of the broadening of the novel, with several flashback scenes detailing the growth of his as a leader for his people, as well as Smaug The Dragon’s attack on his homestead. Armitage as Thorin invokes memories of Aragorn, a character defined by his history who wishes to make his own way, and out of everyone, Thorin is probably the true protagonist of this movie, whilst Bilbo is busy growing into the protagonist of the series. This also leads into a new antagonist to the story, Azog The Defiler, a White Orc chieftain of Moria who hates the lineage of Thorin, as played by Manu Bennett (Spartacus: Blood And Sand, Spartacus: Gods Of The Arena, Spartacus: Vengeance), who helps to group together the skirmishes within the novel and offer a personal touch to the Orc villains, which again, I prefer to the book. Overall, the entire movie helps create a bigger world, with a colossus amount of detail to the background characters, creating this fantastic world for the characters and the audience to inhabit.
There are also several returning faces from the previous series, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman The White, Ian Holm as old Bilbo Baggins, Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, and Andy Serkis as Gollum. All but Serkis, as far as I can remember, were not included in the novel, but their inclusions here, again, help grasp the two series’ together and grow the Middle-Earth universe into a vibrant, living entity, which they deserve respect for. It also helps that all six of these fan favorites continue their wonderful work, as well as adding a sense of nostalgia and awards the fans of the original series. This is also enforced by the inclusion of Howard Shore’s musical score, retreading several themes, again combining the two series’, as well as creating several new musical pieces, specifically two vocal performances, performed by the Dwarf Company. Blunt The Knives is a jovial song that shows the playful side of the Dwarf Company, whereas the Misty Mountains is a beautifully melancholic song that displays the emotional heartbreak upon the Company, and their desperation to return to their home. We also feel the emotion due to the opening scene, which depicts Smaug’s stealing of The Lonely Mountain. In this scene, we see the damage that Smaug creates and the fear he drives into the Dwarf race, but we only see glimpses of Smaug, which build the expectation and depicts him as a fearful, mythic element, which I was very impressed by. Because we’ve barely seen Smaug, it leaves the audience clamoring for more detail in the next film, just like with Gollum in The Fellowship Of The Ring, and fans of the series know how fantastic Gollum ended up.
Now, the negatives, which is not much. First of all, the action within this movie feels more akin to skirmishes and chases as opposed to large battles. Whereas The Fellowship Of The Ring culminates in a fantastic skirmish battle between The Fellowship and an Uruk-Hai army, here, we never truly get something to that level. We get battles between Orcs and the Dwarves, but there is no truly memorable battle scenes or occurrences, which left me a little gutted. This also means that the movie ends up with a less epic feel to it, a downturn from the original series, which I can understand, this is a smaller adventure, but Jackson’s eyes seem smaller as well. Also, whilst The Company are better fighting as a team against enemies compared to The Fellowship, The Fellowship has more distinct characterization in their first movie, compared to The Company. Tolkein had a lot of dwarves, which meant some of them gradually faded together, and here, despite the actors and Jackson’s best attempts, some aren’t as memorable as others. Thorin has several great moments and is the leader, so that helps. Dwalin (Graham McTavish) is the first Dwarf to arrive at the Shire, so he sticks in our memory, whilst Balin (Ken Stott), is the second to arrive and has several character scenes with Thorin, so we remember him. We remember Fili (Dean O’Gorman) and Kili (Aidan Turner) have several scenes with Bilbo, so we remember them. Ori (Adam Brown) is the youngest Dwarf and is a bit simple, we remember him, barely. I remember Bifur (William Kircher), because he has a goblin-axe in his head and can’t speak. Bofur (James Nesbitt) has some good one-liners and a fantastic solo scene with Bilbo, so I remember him. And, Bombur (Stephen Hunter) is fat. That’s nine (9) out of thirteen (13) Dwarves I remember, and I’ve researched extensively! Several Dwarves, I barely remember, which is unfortunate. In comparison, in just the first movie, not only could I rattle off every member of The Fellowship, but they already had differing characters I could recognize. I appreciate it is much more difficult here, as there are more characters and they are 90% Dwarves. I hope in the sequel that the other Dwarves come to the foreground more, without losing the good work already done with the Dwarves I do remember.
I did love this movie, I love spending time in Middle-Earth, and I already knew that it would be different to The Lord Of The Rings, that’s fine. But, there isn’t the same element of magic as there was with the original series. If you loved the original series for the fight scenes, you probably won’t enjoy this film. If, however, you love the characters, and the world it inhabits, like me, you’ll have a great time. But, at the moment, it does suffer in comparison. As a standalone, I enjoyed the film tremendously.
Thumbs Up, and an 8/10.
Next up, we book ourselves a few nights away in a hotel of great repute.