Easily one of the more anticipated releases of 2012 had to be Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three installments that will not only bring Tolkein’s The Hobbit to the big screen but also tie it toThe Lord of the Rings trilogy that made Jackson a household name. I for one was very excited to have this book made into a movie based on its great adventure story and the fact that the characters and stories could possibly be fantastic on screen.The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not that return to Middle Earth that many hoped for but rather an re-imagining of it and a really good one at that.
I became a little worried about The Hobbit once the reviews started coming out and people were saying that it wasn’t that good. But after watching it, I realized that the problem wasn’t that it wasn’t good but it wasn’t The Lord of the Rings. Jackson’s first trilogy was a dark, war-torn epic that gave us larger than life heroes like Aragorn and Legolas and took us on an incredible journey with Frodo and Sam. But The Hobbit is very different, while it brings back that epic scale adventure, it loses the dark tone for a much lighter one that I found just as rewarding.
While I do loveThe Lord of Rings trilogy, I didn’t expect to come out of this film feeling like I had just seen the fourth installment. But rather I came out very satisfied and ready to see the next one.
An Unexpected Journey chronicles the beginning of the adventure for Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he meets Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the dwarves who are led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo was easily one of the best parts of this film as he interjected a lot of personality and natural humor that made him more of a likeable lead than Frodo in the previous trilogy.
What really drew me to this film was the return to the call to adventure structure with classic Hollywood protagonists leading. I felt that the storyline followed that call to adventure that made movies such as Star Wars so great. Bilbo is thrown into this quest with the mentoring by Gandalf and while he doesn’t bring much help at the beginning of the film, that’s just part of his growing throughout the quest. He can’t immediately come in and be helpful because that is not the point of the adventure.
I also loved the roles that Bilbo and Thorin played. They became that prototypical official and outlaw heroes. Bilbo encompassed the official/community hero because of his likeability with the audience and the fact that he is committed to the domestic or home life rather than breaking away on an adventure. Thorin makes up the outlaw hero because of he is driven by self-interest. While the other dwarves want to go back to the mountain, they are focused on the treasure while Thorin wants a return to the throne and a return to the dwarves of old which makes his interests different from the others. These protagonists encompassing these molds made the adventure all the more enjoyable and perfect.
There were many problems though with this film that probably could of appeased many of the doubters had Jackson fixed them. The first problem was the action. It probably was related to the 48 fps but the action seemed very CGI heavy and made the action scenes, while still fun, not as epic in scale as the ones from The Lord of the Rings. Secondly, the length was a big problem with me mainly based on the fact that there will be three movies. Jackson tried to cram a bunch into this film and with two more coming it didn’t feel necessary to have a two hours and fourty five minute film. One spot that was very unnecessary was the very beginning when Bilbo sets up the film as a re-telling for Frodo. I know he wanted to link the trilogies but it was fifteen to twenty minutes we could of been saved for the last film.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, while not perfect, still is a very entertaining film and one that will has me excited for the future installments. Freeman, McKellen, and Armitage are stellar and should be just as great in the next two films. While this does not live up to the lofty expectations following the award winning Lord of the Rings trilogy, I think on its own, it is a very fun film that deserves respect.