Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

 Warner Bros. Pictures: Andy Serkis in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"Money was spent and made by the bucket loads with the first The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It satisfied most of the fans of the books and made some new ones along the way. The “suits” at Warner Bros. own the rights to the film adaptations of this award-winning book turned film franchise, so obviously they’d know the value of the popular series from the stand points of both finances and fanfare. So after allowing the franchise to lie dormant for several years, those same pleasant folks from Warner Brother decided that now was the time to bring it out of hibernation. In other words, they hope to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey bring in some cash while at the same time, bringing joy to all the fans who’ve been waiting for the new trilogy to hit the big screen.

As an old hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) recognizes that he hasn’t told his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) the entire story of his past adventures that began 60 years earlier. Because of this, Old man Baggins chooses to do just that by writing the story down and handing it over to his nephew at the right time. The latest story that he’s going to share with his nephew begins with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) recruiting the young Baggins (Martin Freeman) for an adventure that very few would ever have the opportunity to take part in.

With the hopes of getting Baggins interested in coming along for this adventure, and to get him associated with his potential running mates, Gandalf the Grey introduces him to a pack of thirteen hard-edged dwarfs who are led by the legendary warrior known as Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). This group of small, but brave warriors with fighting spirit are on a dangerous mission that could cost them their lives and bring havoc across the land in which they exist in.

Thorin Oakenshield and his men have their minds and hearts set on reclaiming the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. The kingdom that used to belong to them is now in the hands of Smaug, an evil destructive dragon that can wipe away anyone who’s brave (or dumb) enough to step in its path. The Dwarfs have been waiting to have their revenge, and Gandalf hopes that Baggins can be of some assistance. Although he’s not a fighter, a warrior or wizard, Bilbo is seen as important by Gandalf and a few of Oakenshield’s followers.

This hazardous expedition will lead this crew of fifteen through treacherous lands of all kinds that might lead them to potentially deadly encounters with the likes of menacing Orcs, trolls and Goblins amongst other things waiting in the darkness for a piece of the action that might come their way.  This adventure has the potential to not only restore order to the world that they call home, it may also answer questions about Bilbo Baggins that he never even thought to ask of himself. It’s safe to say that the results of this wild expedition will change their lives in several ways…. assuming they make it out of course.

To get it out-of-the-way, I’ll speak about what I didn’t like first. The only real issue that I have with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the length in which it runs. The movie runs at officially two hours and fifty minutes long, but it probably could have been reduced by twenty or thirty minutes. I think that because of the length of the film, there is a little bit of a “stop and start” feel to it once in a while. I’d feel like things were really about to pick up, but then it would stop and drag-on for a bit. Without these slight pauses, I could have enjoyed it more than I did.

I’ll say that with or without the added time that’s a little unnecessary in my opinion, I do like this movie quite a bit. One of the main reasons why I view The Hobbit in a positive light is the action and adventure that’s given to the audience in abundance. Peter Jackson makes sure to create a film ripe with an adventurous tale that’s highly engaging whenever it’s time for the featured warriors to pull out all the stops and fight or simply high tail it out of there. The action sequences never let you down and they’re easily the number one bright spot of the film.

In spite of being hard-nosed warriors with a ton of heart and dedication that’s made them who they are, you have to remember that with the exception of Gandalf, the other heroes are miniature in stature. I’m sure they realize this, but they’re always willing to  fight when the time comes, even though they’re rarely anything except underdogs far more than anything else. Due to the fact that they’re outmanned and overmatched on more than a few occasions, they have to be able to outsmart and out manuever their foes in many cases. To do this, they’re sometimes forced to fight, but they may also be forced to retreat and regroup when the situation calls for it.

These phenomenal and entertaining action scenes are brought together and made credible by the use of an interesting group of villains lurking around this mysterious land. There’s a plethora of scoundrels of all sizes traversing the vast lands that we witness in the film, but the ones that stand out the most are the Orcs in my opinion.Visually, the Orcs look nice, in a nasty, despicable kind of way. They make for some believable bad guys who are vile, dangerous and insanely persistent in their quest to hunt down and dominate their adversaries.

Along with the hobbits, dwarfs, Orcs and trolls, there are quite a few familiar faces that pay a small visit onto the screen in the way of cameos. I won’t go too much into them, but my personal favorite appearance from the cameos is the one and only Gollum, who’s once again played Andy Serkis. His arrival onto the scene is brief, but effective in adding more entertainment value to the film. He’s a complete delight to watch and is predictably one of the highlights of the film.

If and when you choose to sit down and watch The Hobbit, one of the first things that you’ll notice is just how good it actually looks. I first saw at a screening and it was in something called High-Frame 3D. I had no idea what that was beforehand, but I honestly didn’t care at the time. I was just hoping that the movie would end up being watchable, because sitting down for nearly three hours to watch a movie with 3D glasses on my face is difficult enough.

Apparently, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey runs at 48 frames-per-second and was witnessed by me in the aforementioned High-Frame 3D. Other 3D formats as well as IMAX and 2D are also available for your viewing pleasure. As a matter of fact, the second film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (December 13, 2012 release) and the third film The Hobbit: There and Back Again (July 18, 2014) of Peter Jackson’s latest middle earth trilogy have also been shot consecutively in 3D. That will be a good thing for some and bad for others, depending on which one is preferred by the individual. Regardless of your choice and/or options, you’ll have plenty of ways to see this film if you decide to do so.

There are some good things going on with the 3D early on in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The best of it is during one of the early battle scenes in particular. However, after these early scenes the typical use of 3D falls apart and becomes rather meaningless after a while. I find that this practice is normal when speaking of most modern-day flicks containing 3D. They start off strong only to virtually forget about for the rest of the film.

With all of that being said, the beauty of The Hobbit doesn’t hinge or rely solely on the 3D that’s being utilized. With no ifs, ands or buts about it, this film set in a world of complete fantasy is beautiful to look at from start to finish. As a viewer, it feels as if you’re watching something on live television or a live play maybe. I don’t know if I can say this for sure, but I can’t recall ever seeing something like this before in a major film. It might sound weird, but I got a kick out of the beauty of the film on its own.

As I stated earlier, the movie is a little too long and I think they could have reduced it by about twenty minutes at least. But outside of that, I have a positive impression of this film as a whole. When you look at how beautiful The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is and blend that in with the adventure, an epic soundtrack and a bunch of fun characters, you have something that can be entertaining for people of all ages. And when it comes to movies, entertainment is more important than anything.

Score: 3.5/5

Rating: PG-13

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast:
Martin Freeman
Richard Armitage
Ian McKellen
Cate Blanchett
Hugo Weaving
Ian Holm
Andy Serkis
Elijah Wood
Manu Bennett
Jed Brophy
Adam Brown
John Callen
Mark Hadlow
Peter Hambleton
Barry Humphries
Stephen Hunter
William Kircher
Sylvester McCoy
Bret McKenzie
Graham McTavish
James Nesbitt
Dean O’Gorman
Conan Stevens
Ken Stott
Aidan Turner

Film Length: 170 minutes

Release Date: December 14, 2012

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures