The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Review

The Plot:
When the wizard Gandalf invites unassuming Hobbit Bilbo Baggins to join a brave band of Dwarfs on a quest to reclaim their homeland from the monstrous dragon Smaug; he finds it impossible to decline and sets out on an unexpected journey to face the magical perils of middle earth.

The Good:

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings precursor The Hobbit is probably the most widely read and beloved fantasy book ever written. The incredible success of the previous Middle Earth films made it inevitable that The Hobbit would eventually make the predictable journey to the big screen.  Now Director Peter Jackson has finally delivered a superb adaptation that should delight new and old fans alike.

Sherlock star Martin Freeman was an obvious and well-chosen choice to play mild-mannered Hobbit hero Bilbo Baggins. His trademark ability to play a flustered everyman is vital in keeping Bilbo endearing. It allows him to be appropriately confused, irritated and astounded by the fantastical world around him. He may be consistently out of his element, but Freeman’s Bilbo thankfully isn’t a buffoon.

The band of Dwarf warriors that Bilbo joins may be numerous, with confusingly similar names, but each has his own well defined personality and charms. This is thanks in part to a well picked group of seasoned character actors and the astonishingly work of skilled hair, makeup and wardrobe departments. Ken Stott as weary old warrior Balin and James Nesbitt as the jovial Bofur are particularly memorable and enjoyable performances. But the real star is Richard Armitage as the heroic dwarf leader Thorin. He epitomises Tolkien’s vision of the dwarves as fierce and proud warriors in spite of their slightly diminutive size.

Of course it is also very welcome to see Sir Ian McKellen reprise his role as powerful wizard Gandalf the Grey. It’s always a joy to see one of the most iconic characters in Tolkien’s world captured so perfectly on screen.  His booming voice and clam wry smile allow us to enjoy even the most perilous moments and gives the franchise the same kind of good natured spirituality that Yoda brought to Star Wars.

The most magical assets of Tolkien’s tales have always been the rich array of monsters and mythical creatures that roam his Middle Earth. Goblins, Orcs, Elves, Trolls and Dragons may be generic staples of the fantasy genre, but rarely have they been so beautifully imagined in words than in Tolkien’s book or on screen by Jackson’s Weta Workshop special effects team. Building on the ground-breaking techniques developed while making Lord of the Rings and guided by Guillermo Del Toro who was heavily involved in the film’s pre-production, The Hobbit boasts a dazzling array of imagery equally beautiful and grotesque.

The Bad:

Those lacking in patience or an appetite for fantasy adventure may find 2hours and 40 minutes a long time to follow Bilbo’s adventures; even if it is shorter than any of Peter Jackson’s previous Lord of the Rings adaptations. An Unexpected Journey follows a similar pattern to the first Lord of The Rings film The Fellowship Of the Ring, beginning in the idyllic and uneventful Shire and taking some time to pick up the pace with actual adventure. The film moves with more urgency and excitement as it goes on but it does test audiences stamina.

Those that by choice or accident do see the film in its High Frame Rate 3D format may  find takes some getting used to and offers at best minimal improvement. The Hobbit is the first major cinematic release to be released using 48 Frames per second, rather than the traditional 24 frames. This controversial new style of cinema has already divided opinions intensely and will certainly continue to do so. Much like Avatar’s introduction of a new 3D format, it’s impossible to entirely separate your feelings film overall from your opinion of its unique look and feel. However, it is important to remember the film is also being released in standard  3D and 2D formats, so there’s no need to panic if you’re reluctant to give it a go.

The Ugly Truth:

For fans of Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings films, the long awaited return to Middle Earth will not disappoint. The Hobbit translate easily to the screen, matching and at times surpassing both the astonishing effects and scope of storytelling delivered by the previous Tolkien adaptations. Ignoring the obvious debate about the film’s optional new 48 frames per second format, the film is otherwise a magnificent first step that will leave most audiences eager to continue the journey in the next two films.

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