6.11 movie review
Journalism 21B 6.11
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Sir Peter Jackson returns audiences to Tolkien’s fantasy realm of Middle-Earth for a heart-warming prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Some 60 years before the “Fellowship of the Ring” embarks on its fateful journey to defeat the Dark Lord Sauron, Bilbo Baggins is an unassuming hobbit living in the shire. Played by Martin Freeman, Baggins wants no part of any adventure, such being “nasty disturbing uncomfortable things that make you late for dinner!”
After a visit by the Grey Wizard Gandalf, played by Sir Ian McKellen, Baggins is drawn into the company of 13 eccentric dwarfs on a quest to reclaim their “kingdom under the mountain.” Trolls, elves and all manner of mystical creatures both beautiful and deadly abound in a special effects masterpiece.
More than anything, “An Unexpected Journey” is a reintroduction to earlier versions of many characters already familiar from “The Lord of the Rings.” The first of a three-part adaptation of Tolkien’s original 1937 novel, it is full of fateful meetings and sometimes not so subtle references to events yet to come.
It is gratifying to see McKellen reprise his role as a younger, less world-weary Gandalf with much to prove. The character and actor arguably carry a comparatively weaker selection of characters played by mostly unknown talents. Fans who felt Gandalf’s action scenes were underwhelming in the LOTR trilogy though will rejoice at the feats of battle and magic wrapped around a portentous story.
Bilbo is of course a central character to that story, and all that come later. Freeman dominates the camera, despite special effects magic which makes him appear shorter, and does more to deliver the beloved persona of the novel than any other actor could. Hand-picked by Jackson, the entire shoot was rearranged to accommodate the actor’s schedule.
Rounding out his domination of English literature-turned-films alongside “Sherlock” and “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Freeman admits in an interview with Crave Online that he was not a Tolkien fan growing up, but came to love the series through Jackson’s films. His fellow “Sherlock” costar Benedict Cumberbatch on the other hand is living his childhood dream by playing both the Necromancer and the dragon Smaug. Though neither makes more than a cameo appearance in this first film, the trilogy’s two main villains are ominously present throughout.
And it is only the first film. If “An Unexpected Journey” can be said to have a fault, it is that despite being three hours long, it ends too soon. Being intentionally part of a trilogy, fans will be left hanging with an “Empire Strikes Back” or “New Moon” ending, depending on the generation.
While unquestionably lighter in tone than the LOTR series, the “Hobbit” series is not overly childish. If anything, it is a reminder that if the violence and emotional drama of kings and demons kept LOTR audiences entertained as adults, it was the magic, hope and a hobbit’s silly quest which lured readers into Middle Earth as children.