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THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (review)

hobbit_an_unexpected_journeyTHE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
 
Written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen
 
Bilbo Baggins: Good morning. 
Gandalf: What do you mean? Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it to be or not, or that you feel good this morning, or that it is a morning to be good on? 

Bilbo Baggins: All of them at once.

While I am not a fan of everything Peter Jackson has done (KING KONG, anyone?), I really feel that the entire LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy is his opus.  He knows this world so well and has worked with the same writing and production teams throughout the entire process and this expertise shines through in THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, the first of three films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s prequel. Only time will tell whether this new series will hold its own next to THE LORD OF THE RINGS though.

THE HOBBIT starts off with our old friend, Bilbo (Ian Holm), starting the book he finishes at the beginning of the LOTR series.  When he finishes his introduction, he fades into a younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman), taking in the scenery outside his hobbit hole.  This is where Bilbo sees Gandalf (Ian McKellen) for the very first time since he was a child and Gandalf decides that this is the person he needs to fill out his adventuring party.  Later that night, Bilbo is visited by a large group of dwarves who take over his house and start to plan out their adventure (and do a little singing while they’re at it).  They intend on making their way back to the dwarves’ ancestral home and take it back from the dragon, Smaug, who has set up camp there.  They soon discover, like in any other good adventuring story, getting from point A to point B isn’t as easy as they may have thought initially.

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One of the things I loved most about this movie is that the character of Bilbo is essentially me.  Bilbo is the every man and he reacts the same way a lot of us would when faced with the total upheaval of his quiet life.  Freeman was the perfect actor to cast in this role (I wasn’t available.) as he is relatable and likeable despite playing a curmudgeon that doesn’t like to leave his hobbit hole.  We are able to put ourselves in his hairy feet and go through all of this with him.  When Bilbo yells: “I’m going on an adventure!”, I felt as though I too was going on said adventure and I was hooked.

The cast of players were joined by some familiar favorites (like Elijah Wood’s Frodo) as well as some new additions.  We get to see the moment where Golum (Andy Serkis) discovers and uses the ring that is the subject of the later films for the first time.  For me, the new character I enjoyed the most was Radagast, The Brown (Sylvester McCoy).  An eccentric friend of Gandalf’s, this character was not in the book but won my heart and stole a couple of scenes at the same time.

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Having characters that are relatable must have been a concern for the producers, as they found themselves with a cast of characters that were not supposed to look very human.  Herein lies a minor complaint for me, but also one that I haven’t been able to shake, as they clearly made some of the dwarves look like dwarves, and the rest look like shorter humans with a small amount of facial hair.  This is confusing as all the dwarves were from the same clan but yet looked like a completely different species.  Make-up was a big issue for me as they decided to commercialize the film at the expense of art and consistency.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY did everything a prequel should do.  It filled in a lot of the gaps I may not have known from a series I have already enjoyed greatly.  Also, as the first of three films, it made me excited to see more.  It looks like Jackson has managed to do what some considered the impossible, taking a relatively short book and expanding it properly. So far, anyway. And now that my initial trepidation is behind me, I say let the adventure continue!

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