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Movie Review: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Rating: PG-13 (for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and scary images)
Duration: 2 hours 46 minutes
Release date: December 14, 2012
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Genre: Action / Adventure, Sci-Fi / Fantasy, Adaptation
After the extraordinary commercial success of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, it was no surprise that the film industry wanted to further capitalize on the fantasy works of renowned author JRR Tolkien. The three-film adaptation of Tolkien’s famous trilogy of books grossed nearly $3 billion and won eleven Oscars for “The Return of the King,” the last film in the series. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a film successor to the “Rings” franchise, although the events of this new film take place before the events of the “Rings” trilogy.
The film and the book from which it was adapted tell the story of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who is recruited to undertake a grand quest. Tolkien’s 1937 novel “The Hobbit” was written before the three-book “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and is somewhat different in tone. Where the “Rings” series involved trying to stop world-ending events and contained many dark themes, “The Hobbit” was written by Tolkien as a short story for children.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” begins with a prologue that explains how the inhabitants of the dwarven kingdom of Erebor were driven from their homeland by the dragon Smaug. The dwarves have attracted the dragon’s attention by accumulating too much gold, which the dragons covet with a dark and wild desire.
The elder Bilbo Baggins played by Ian Holm, the actor who originated the role in the Rings trilogy, recalls the time when he was visited by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) in his youth. Gandalf wanted Bilbo to help a group of dwarves reclaim their homeland from Smaug. As the film moves to the events of the past, the role of young Bilbo is played by Martin Freeman.
Bilbo the hobbit is not happy about this journey. Unwilling to give up the comforts of home, he needs a lot of convincing before he sets off on a journey with Gandalf and the thirteen dwarves, including their leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). As the group continues their quest, they are chased by monstrous orcs and bloodthirsty goblins, captured by trolls, and haunted by ghosts.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a fantasy masterpiece. This movie is the first in a planned trilogy, so the portion of the book depicted in the movie doesn’t add much background to the “Rings” trilogy other than introducing Gollum (Andy Serkis). Instead, the film further fleshes out Middle-earth and its inhabitants.
This addition to the franchise introduces new protagonists and a few familiar faces. This new movie is all about Bilbo Baggins, but caters to established fans by bringing in a few old characters like Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving). However, fans of Strider, the future king, may be disappointed to find that there is no prologue to his story.
The film makes the most of its straightforward mythic themes, including a grand heroic quest. Each location along the way is realistic and distinct, aided by Andrew Lesnie’s gorgeous photography, Dan Hennah’s intricate production design, and Howard Shore’s soaring musical score. The heroes are a combination of superiors like Gandalf and ordinary people like Bilbo. The audience can empathize with Bilbo’s situation as he deals with the gruff Gandalf and the antagonistic Thorin, while he ultimately tries to do the great deed and return home in one piece.
The nearly three-hour film draws viewers into Middle-earth. For those new to Tolkien’s fantasy world, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is probably not the best place to jump into. Some of the events that happen only gain meaning when the viewer knows how they relate to the “Rings” trilogy. Despite this caveat, the film is captivating, and if a viewer has to watch it again after watching the “Rings” trilogy, it probably won’t be difficult.
The film was shot at a new high frame rate of forty-eight frames per second. Viewers can watch in 2D or 3D and at the new frame rate or 24fps format. Thanks to the film’s superb cinematography, chances are good that “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” will win a number of awards this season.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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