The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Overview

Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit enjoying his quiet life, is swept into an epic quest by Gandalf the Grey and thirteen dwarves who seek to reclaim their mountain home from Smaug, the dragon.

Who Stars in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Martin Freeman
Bilbo

Martin Freeman

Ian McKellen
Gandalf

Ian McKellen

Richard Armitage
Thorin

Richard Armitage

Andy Serkis
Gollum

Andy Serkis

Cate Blanchett
Galadriel

Cate Blanchett

Christopher Lee
Saruman

Christopher Lee


Recommendations

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Dark Knight Rises
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Star Trek Into Darkness
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Review for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Author: Matt Golden

Over a decade after a little-known director from New Zealand managed to con New Line Cinema into giving him $300 million to make a trilogy based on JRR Tolkien's seminal fantasy (and long considered unfilmable) work The Lord of the Rings, the cinematic landscape for fantasy has changed drastically. Much like Tolkien's tome, the Lord of the Rings films came to utterly define high fantasy in film, with even competing fantasy adaptations like The Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland cribbing from Peter Jackon's critically-acclaimed, audience-adored multipart epic. Now Jackson has returned to the land that made him famous for a go-round with Tolkien's earlier work, The Hobbit. Tolkien's The Hobbit is far more modest in scope than its enormous sequel, and geared for a younger audience. It introduced the world to Bilbo Baggins, a typically quiet hobbit who is coaxed into adventure by the grey wizard Gandalf, enlisted to aid thirteen dwarves in reclaiming their long-lost homeland. Jackson had the unenviable task of following up on his blockbuster Academy Award-winning masterpiece, and initially passed off the directing responsibilities to fantasy master Guillermo del Toro. Difficulties securing the film rights led to delay after delay, and del Toro finally departed, leaving the original creative team the ability to step back into place and create a follow-up/lead-in with the same creative staff in front of and behind the camera. Jackson returned as director, co-writing with Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens (though del Toro retains a screenwriting credit), Andrew Lesnie as cinematographer, and Howard Shore as composer, along with all of the other stalwarts of the original trilogy. The lone exception to that is the recasting of Martin Freeman as the titular hobbit, taking over for the aging Ian Holm. Holm appears in the film's framing sequence (a scene that takes place immediately prior to the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring), along with that trilogy's star, Elijah Wood. But this time out, it's Freeman's show, and he's as charming, witty, and engaging as you could imagine. He also makes a perfect Young Ian Holm. The casting is truly inspired. Sir Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf (here playing his more impish grey incarnation, rather than the frankly humorless white version) and the heralded thespian manages to imbue his character with both immense power and gravitas, while still throwing in little flourishes that sell Gandalf as an imperfect man, rather than just an all-knowing power. Rounding out the third of this film's main characters, and an addition to this world, is Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the motley crew of dwarves. Armitage likewise manages to imbue Thorin with both rage and honor, and is easily believable as someone who could lead these dwarves into life-threatening battle. The other twelve dwarves are something of a blur, but a few of them manage to make an impression, even with limited screen time. I imagine the two future installments of the series will afford them each the chance to shine. Which brings up the most contentious point of this whole Hobbit affair: the fact that it's a three-part epic. The Hobbit, as written, is a comparatively slim tome of around 300 pages (compare that to The Lord of the Rings' combined 1,600). This installment alone is ten minutes shy of a whopping three hours. And as anyone who's seen The Return of the King can attest, Jackson can get rather indulgent at times (the end[s] of that film). Initially the film was going to be split in twain, then later divvied up into three parts. Tolkien, ever the completist, wrote volumes of backstories for this world, and Jackson decided to pull from them to bulk out these films. I've seen a lot of hay being made about the film being bloated and, yes, indulgent. I'm an editor at heart, and am generally hyper-sensitive about cutting down to the bone. But the strangest thing happened on the way to the Lonely Mountain: I found myself simply rolling along with the shaggy-dog pace of the film. It's astonishing in hindsight. The film virtually redefines "taking the scenic route," but the crazy thing is I didn't mind it in the least. I believe it's because of the lowered stakes of The Hobbit. Every single frame of The Lord of the Rings was suffused with overbearing doom; that trilogy's "save the world" plot became as heavy a burden to bear as the ring hung around Frodo's neck. But The Hobbit is lighter, freer, funnier, and doesn't have the weight of the world on its shoulders. It's rather the difference between having an appointment you need to get to in heavy traffic and taking a weekend to just drive around, stopping when and where you like. This pace will likely have a dire impact on the film's rewatchability, but sitting in the theater for a midnight showing? Magic. The structure of the film itself seems to have ADD. Its innumerable diversions began to remind me of a live-action Family Guy episode, with character or event mentions that suddenly cause the film to cut away to a dramatization of said. But again, and I can't stress enough how unexpected this was for me, I didn't mind in the least (with one exception: it appears to be an inviolable rule that any scene in Rivendell will stop a film dead in its tracks). The craft of the film manages to best that of its predecessor trilogy: Howard Shore turns in one of his most stirring scores, the production design and art direction are again immersive and beautiful, and Andrew Lesnie continues his unique style of cinematography combining gorgeous shots (wonderful) with frequently blowing out highlights (distracting and ugly). One complaint I do have is Jackon's newfound over-reliance on CGI. Azog the Defiler (a chief antagonist of the film) and the Goblin King (a bit of a lark) are the sorts of character that would have (and should have) been practical effects in the original trilogy. Here they're fully CGI, and their menace is undermined by it. Gollum returns for his most famous scene, and looks wonderful; Andy Serkis' performance and the CGI truly sell this pitiful creature. CGI can be pitiful but not threatening, it appears. I don't know what the other two installments of The Hobbit have in store. What I do know is that this return to Middle-earth is off to a great start, and if this is any indication of things to come, I'll most assuredly enjoy the ride.


Part of the The Hobbit Collection

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Production


Warner Bros. Pictures

WingNut Films


New Line Cinema


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer


Facts

Status
Released

Release Date
2012-11-26

Original Language
English

Runtime
2 hr 49 mins

Budget
$ 250,000,000.00 (Estimated)

Revenue
$1,021,103,568.00 (USA)

Profit
$ 771,103,568.00 (Estimated in USA)

Homepage
http://www.thehobbit.com/

Genres
Adventure Fantasy Action

Keywords
riddle elves dwarf orcs middle-earth (tolkien) hobbit mountain wizard journey ring goblin courage giant tunnel underground lake buried treasure climbing a tree invisibility ancient gnomes


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