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Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Director:  Peter Jackson.

Running Time: 169 minutes.

Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett.

The long awaited follow up to Peter Jacksons Lord of the Rings  (LotR) trilogy has been doing its rounds in the cinema for a little while now, but I’ve only just managed to see it. Poor effort, I know. The Hobbit  is actually a prequel, following the adventures of Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), along with Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and thirteen dwarves who are trying to reclaim their homeland by slaying the dragon, Smaug, who stole it from them.

Leading the rag-tag bunch of dwarves is Thorin Oakensheild, king of their lost mountain kingdom, played by Richard Armitage. Armitage puts in a fantastic performance, and really carries a sense of nobility in his character. Unfortunately a lot of the dwarves sit in the background, so we don’t get a real sense of their characters – but with another two films to go I’m sure there will be time to get to know them. Ian McKellen, reprising his role of the wizard Gandalf, is typically fantastic and manages to be both humorous and serious depending on the situation at hand. Martin Freeman also puts in a strong performance playing a young Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who leaves his peaceful life in The Shire for an adventure across Middle Earth. All-in-all, the acting is good across the board. Alongside those already mentioned, Christopher Lee (Saruman), Kate Blanchett (Galadriel) and Hugo Weaving (Elrond) also briefly appear, reprising their roles from The Lord of the Rings. Another last blast from the past comes from the return of Andy Serkis’ fantastic portrayal of Gollum in one of the most tense and entertaining scenes of the whole film.

There has been some controversy surrounding the 48 frames-per-second (FPS) used in the 3D version of the movie, with some people arguing that it’s uncomfortable on the eyes after becoming accustomed to the standard 24 fps movies. I, personally, had no trouble with the increased frame rate. On the contrary, I was simply blown away by the stunning visuals. The panoramic landscape shots from LotR make their return, and are truly breathtaking at times. The battle scenes in particular stood out, with incredibly detailed visuals and some fantastic CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). When it comes to style, The Hobbit is not lacking. How these visuals will look in the 24 fps version I can’t say, but they were incredible in the 48 fps, 3D version.

When it comes to substance, however, perhaps something is lacking. Although I wouldn’t say there’s any scenes in the film that seem entirely pointless, the plot is relatively weak. Having stretched the novel into three films this first installment only charts the beginning of their journey. There is a lot of action packed in though, which keeps the film entertaining, but some may be frustrated at a lack of plot development. Perhaps what’s more important in this installment is the development of Bilbos character, becoming bolder and more adventurous after his mundane life of books and gardening in The Shire. Just like Frodo in LotR, Bilbo is forced to adapt to a new way of life that completely contrasts his peaceful existence at home. So, I suppose you could say that An Unexpected Journey  is more about character development than plot development – but this surely won’t be to everyone’s taste.

One last thing that deserves mentioning is Howard Shore’s powerful musical score. Continuing his fantastic work from LotR, Shore once again delivers a wonderful backing to the protagonists journey that I feel helps lift the film as a whole.

Overall, The Hobbit is much lighter hearted than The Lord of The Rings, but is still a fantastic film. Its plot may not match up to LotR, but it is still quirky and entertaining, with stunning visuals and a host of powerful performances. Well worth the price of a cinema ticket, and I will be looking forward to seeing the next installment in the trilogy.


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Journalism Graduate from The University of the West of England. Fan of a strange eclectic mix of blues, psychedelic rock, UK hip-hop and plenty more.

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