The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 4/5 Movie Reviews by Ry!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 4/5 – A return to Middle Earth, that’s something I have been waiting for since the end of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  I am a big Tolkien/Middle Earth Fan.  When it comes to Tolkien Lore, I am well versed in all the stories, characters and extra information regarding the world.  In having this much love for the lore, I knew that there would be some kind of return to Middle Earth, film wise.  With that being said, after years of waiting, we have part one of a trilogy for Tolkien’s original work, The Hobbit.  With this return, a lot of expectations were put on this new set of movies to succeed.  I am happy to say, with a little more wits and charm, this film succeeds in bringing us back to the world of Middle Earth.  With a few elements that drag, and a slow beginning, what we have is a great start to a new journey to experience in Middle Earth.

As the journey begins, we have Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a hobbit who is swept away from the Shire to join an adventure.  He is approached out of the blue by the wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen).  After accepting his invitation, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves and their quest to take back their homeland.  This company of dwarves is led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).  In the first part of the trilogy, their journey will take them through treacherous lands swarming with goblins and orcs, deadly wargs and giant Spiders, shape shifters and sorcerers.  The company must also face dangers and escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets a creature that will change his life forever, Gollum.  Here, on the shores of an underground lake, he must discover the depths of guile and courage, which will surprise him and the company of dwarves.  For a movie that delves into a fantasy world with a lot of back story, the acting is very top notch.  When it comes to the main characters of Gandalf, Bilbo, and Thorin, the actors do a stupendous job in these roles.  Martin Freeman as Bilbo is remarkable and amazing.  He literally owns this role, as he represents who Bilbo is.  He has the swagger, charm and an aurora in this hobbit.  Never for a second do you think about Ian Holms as Bilbo, you only think Martin Freeman is the real Bilbo Baggins.  His interaction and line delivery is well precise, and when he gets into confrontations, especially with Gollum, he makes you feel the danger he or the company he is with is in.  When it comes to Ian Mckellen, he is marvelous once again as Gandalf the Grey.  He has that old wise folk mentality, and you know that, even for his stern interaction and harden focus, he has heart and love for everyone he interacts with.  You know he is a true schemer, but in a good way.  You feel the character, you feel the wizard, as you don’t think of him as another movie creation, but an actual person who is full of knowledge and has a lot humor.  Out of these three, Thorin stands out the most.  Richard Armitage is gives you a real, down to earth remarkable person/dwarf as Thorin Oakenshield.  He provides a dwarf who is hardened by his travels, and strong in his own way.  He has a hunger to take back his homeland, and you see it in every word and facial expression he has.   He represents real pride of what a dwarf of middle earth should have, and he gives you true grit when facing ultimate danger.  His interaction with Bilbo is where most of the allure happens.  Both these characters contradict in their personalities, which helps build a level of degree of depth and character for the both of them.   When it comes to the side characters (the rest of the dwarves, Elrond, Galadriel, the Goblin King and the white Orc) they all stand out and are astounding when on screen, either by the acting or CGI creativity.  They don’t have much time on screen or have many lines to say, but they provide enough to add quality and assurance of greatness to the story that is being presented on the screen.  Gollum is the real stand out of the side characters.  Even though he isn’t a real person and CGI created, he is a true complexion of anguish, agony and pain of a real person.  For the time we have with Gollum in this film, he is funny, scary and provides one of the best scenes in the film.  You realize in the scenes when Bilbo meets him, you see a great reflection of human nature, and you know that you and Bilbo have learned something from this gangly creature.

The direction of this film is, like Lord of the Rings, very well focused and simple, as it puts you on being swept away into a journey.   The main difference between the two is the atmosphere created by the director, Peter Jackson.  Even though they take place in the same world, the atmosphere of this film is more light hearted.  There are your typical fantasy action scenes, with the fight in Goblin Town and the race against the orcs, but the overall feeling is more lighter.  This might detract the hardcore Lord of the Rings fans, but Tolkien fans will appreciate what the film is.  There are songs being sung by the dwarves, humor is plentiful, especially between the dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf, and there is a lot more dialogue and story to take in, even if it’s just one book it is based on.  There is a really long setup in the beginning of the movie.  Peter Jackson tries to bring the audience great knowledge of the premise of the book with a lot of backstory.  This does cause the film to have a slow start, but once you get into the heart of the movie and the journey, it ramps up greatly.  From the start of the journey until the end, you are faced with many trials of hope, strength and futility.  There are a lot of great scenes that bring out5 the scope of the direction, like the witnessing of the riddles of the dark between Gollum and Bilbo, to the treachery and tension between the goblins and dwarves in Goblin Town.  In these scenes, you feel the truth of what is happening, and understand the vision for this new trilogy.  The enveloping story of the dwarves quest to take Erebor is where the heart of the movie lies.  As you watch this unfold in the telling of Bilbo’s story, and notice, in its own light, we are watching another epic adventure.   Along the main story, there is more added into this movie by Peter Jackson from extra material from Tolkien’s world, including the White council and the rise of the Necromancer.  These additions help build a connection to the original trilogy, but it doesn’t detract from the main story of the quest to take back Erebor.

The cinematography is, outside of the direction and characters, the heart of all Peter Jackson films.  The world that is created is just, jaw dropping.  Peter does a fantastic job in recreating the world of Middle Earth for this film.  From the vast, beautiful landscapes to the deep and darkest of dungeons, you feel as if this world really exists, and you can visit there (They actually do have a Hobbiton in New Zealand).  Jackson is a great visionary, and he does a fine job in creating the scale and magnitude of what this quest is about, how this world exists, and how to make the audience feel a part of Middle Earth.  From the creation of the Lonely Mountain, the destruction of Erebor and Dale, to the romantic and magical valley of Rivendell and the dark, dreary depths of Goblin Town and the underground lake, you feel the vividness in the colors and the subtle touch in the nature.  As mention earlier, the film really shines with the scope of these visuals.  In addition to the visuals, what also adds depth to the visuals is the score.  The music of the Hobbit has a little bit rehashing from the original trilogy, but there are some great new musical additions to the catalog, including the singing from the dwarves.  Even if there is a little repeating of the old soundtrack, it does feel good to hear the sounds of Middle Earth.  You are once again captured by the music, as it makes you feel for the characters and the scenarios that happen throughout the movie.

Overall, this film isn’t the greatest fantasy ever, or creates that same dark epic feel that was the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it is a great start to a new trilogy and a welcome return to Middle Earth.  You feel a greater attachment to the world with returning characters like Bilbo, Gandalf and Gollum, while also feeling new attachments to this new story through the company of Dwarves, specifically Thorin.  The direction is simple and effective in the quest to take the Erebor, but the grandeur is in the awe inspiring visuals created by Peter Jackson and the emotional strikes provided by the score.  I’d recommend this film to any Tolkien fan, as well as fans of the fantasy genre.

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