FILM: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Review by Pete Mason

After watching “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first of three films that precede “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, there are two ways of looking at the two-and-a-half-hour visual masterpiece:

1.) The movie is amazing and brings Middle Earth to life, telling a great story and leading up to the next film due out in 2013.

2.) The film is too long, expands on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original story to the point of exhaustion and is a lame start to the first of three films based on one book.

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I’ll take the first option any day of the week. Cynical reviews on the movie have shown that some cannot look at the film and just enjoy it, rather comparing it to the book (shorter than any of the “Lord of the Rings” books) and pointing out every argument against this series of films that few were in anticipation of. Sure, three films for one book is a bit much.

The 1977 animated tale of “The Hobbit” only takes 75 minutes to tell the tale but does so in a rushed manner. If you look at Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” as the prelude to “Lord of the Rings” story, then you can see the span of some 60+ years of Middle Earth, seeing familiar faces along the way and the evolution of some characters that are seen throughout the extended story.

Bilbo Baggins, uncle to “Lord of the Rings’” Frodo, is gently coerced into joining a band of 12 dwarves and Gandalf the Grey on their quest to face Smaug, the dragon who took the home (and treasure) of the dwarves inside the Lonely Mountain, many years ago. On the trip, Bilbo gains the respect of leader Thorin Oakenshield, the rightful leader of the Dwarves through his ability to get the clan out of situations with Trolls and Orcs, growing more fearless throughout the film.

Martin Freeman portrays Bilbo as the unassuming hobbit who joins an adventure as a burglar, facing danger and creatures along the way. He is a perfect fit, just as Elijah Wood was in portraying Frodo Baggins for three films. Bilbo grows during the film, having his wits tested by Gollum (Andy Serkis) and proves more vital to the expedition than any expected. Ian McKellan gives Gandalf the same picture-perfect treatment he received in the later three films, appearing more ragged but still as powerful as a wizard like he would expect to be.

If you enjoyed “Lord of the Rings,” you will enjoy “The Hobbit.” If you are looking for something to stay true to the book, opt for the cartoon version (trailer below). But you’re missing out on a great literary trilogy being brought to the screen.

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