The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) steps outside of his comfort zone.
There are a few movies that are “critic proof,” and needless to say The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is likely one of those select titles. Released nearly a decade after the first of Peter Jackson’s film depicting the troublesome ring that was tossed into the fiery pit, Tolkien aficionados have had their eye firmly set on the day the acclaimed author’s junior companion novel would be put to film. And no nay saying of any kind is likely to keep them from filling up theater seats.
For the few, like me, who have not enthusiastically read the book, you can anticipate a road trip movie of massive proportions—think Lord of the Rings with a little more humor and not quite as much blood. The tale opens with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) reminiscing to Frodo (Elijah Wood) about a time, 60 years ago, when he became the very unwilling 14th member of a Dwarf army determined to regain their lands from fierce invading dragon named Smaug. Led by the legendary warrior Thorin (Richard Armitage) and under the guidance of the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the little group battles a new foe around every corner… and in every scene. Orcs, goblins, trolls, giant spiders and a variety of other nasty nemeses populate the screen en masse giving much opportunity for epic scenes of swordplay.
Undaunted, they hope to find their way to the Lonely Mountain where the dragon lays amongst their riches and gold. Of courses the trip will also provide some pivotal meetings, the most notable being Bilbo’s discovery of Gollum (Andy Serkis) deep in the goblin tunnels where the young hobbit also comes across the emaciated being’s most precious possession—The Ring.
Like the LOTR trio, this film easily winds past the two-hour mark. And don’t expect a tidy ending, with this being only the first in yet another triple title adaptation. Considering this time director Peter Jackson only has one book to stretch into three movies, this adventure sometimes slows to the pace of a hobbit on holidays. Battles are tediously long and there’s lots of time to admire the beautiful surroundings of the director’s home and native land (this franchise is also shot in New Zealand). That being said, at least the visuals are an engaging feast filled with digital and real world characters and objects.
Perhaps the greatest issue with this film will be the question of its appropriateness for some of the youngest admirers of the novel. Unlike reading a book, where a child’s imagination is limited by his or her own experience, this movie often details battle scenes with fairly explicit imagery. Decapitations leave heads rolling, arms are sliced off and countless humans and other beings meet their deaths in massive battles. While the violence is a bit less explicit than the previous Lord of the Rings movies, and blood effects are minimal, there is still plenty here to keep children up at night. As well there are frequent jump scenes and moments of peril. Thankfully sexual content and profanity are pretty much non-existent.
Fans (and others with the patience to endure the drawn out plot) will undoubtedly love what they discover here, and so they should. This is a massive undertaking and while the story isn’t complete, there are positive messages about extending ourselves beyond our comfort zones and committing to a greater cause. For teens looking for adventure at the theater The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will likely be a satisfying return to the shire.