Director Peter Jackson brought the Lord of the Rings trilogy to the big screen in the early 2000's, which is one of the greatest trilogies in quite some time. In 2012, Jackson returns with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which is the true beginning to the story. However, this will be known to audiences as a prequel, because of the order these features have been adapted in. With almost a three hour running time and a brand new technology on his hands, Peter Jackson hopes to reach some of the greatness he achieved with the first trilogy. Fans of the franchise are sure to have a good time, but casual moviegoers won't be quite as enthralled.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is a Hobbit who lives by himself in the Shire. After he's visited by Gandalf (Ian McKellen), he's recruited as the "burglar" to aid a group of vigorous Dwarves on their journey. However, it's much more dangerous than Bilbo anticipated, as they set on the adventure to reclaim a treasure stolen from them by the dragon Smaug. The group faces numerous dangers and a variety of different forms of life, but must stick together if they plan to survive long enough to reach their goal.
The plot begins in The Shire, as we go back in time to witness the adventure that changed Bilbo's life forever. With his house filled with Dwarves, he attempts to keep everything under control and persistently asks why they're at his house. Gandalf tells him that they need him in order to accomplish their goal. Hesitant at first, the Hobbit ultimately decides to go with the group. While that's essentially the beginning of the feature, it gets off to a slow start. Audiences get to see some depth in the life of the Hobbit that we didn't get to see in Lord of the Rings, but the pacing is constantly bothered with scenes such as these, which ultimately feel redundant. Once the group takes off on the road, the movie finally gets going. As expected, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is often chatty, but it manages to keep the attention of audiences with ease. I enjoyed Peter jackson's previous trilogy, but we get a closer look at the life of a Dwarf than we ever did before. There's an array of different characters, but they all grew on me rather quickly.
Those who are looking for some action with their fantasy will be pleased to know that there are some pretty awesome battle sequences, especially for being the first entry in a trilogy. However, this isn't the highlight of this film. We're treated to an excellent encounter between Bilbo and Gollum (Andy Serkis). They meet in a dreary cave, as they begin to play a game of riddles. This portion of the movie is one of its strongest points. Not only will fans be happy to see Gollum on the big screen again, but viewers will be pleased with the well-crafted dialogue. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a long movie, but the screenplay makes it feel shorter than it is. Even though it gets off to a slow start, it's made up for through the remainder of the running time. The ending leaves off at a place that will leave fans wanting to see more. This isn't a perfect script, but it handles dialogue well and brings honor to the franchise.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey shines through its two main characters. Martin Freeman delivers a great performance as Bilbo Baggins. He's convincing and fits the look of the role. Freeman brings a charm to Bilbo that makes him even more likable of a character. Ian McKellen does a marvelous job as Gandalf. He brings a calm and collected performance, which is always welcome from him. He represents this character to the big screen in a way that no other actor can. The film won't win any awards for its acting, but Freeman and McKellen deserve the recognition for these great performances, which come across as being so convincing that it feels as if we're watching a real Hobbit and Wizard.
With his great visual style, Peter Jackson has brought another beautiful film to life. He has captured some truly incredible shots. The landscapes and CG work are both so incredibly detailed that it looks like a real world. The film community has been speaking about how Jackson shot the entire feature in 3D through 48fps (frames per second), instead of the usual 24fps. The colors and details are much cleaner than we're used to seeing in a 3D feature, but the movements take a lot of getting used to. At first, I found myself getting distracted by the odd fluidity. Some scenes look as if somebody clicked the fast-forward button, but once you get used to it, the new technology is fine. While this is a step up for the 3D technology, it isn't used to its full potential and I will never be a true supporter of the format. Regardless of the new technology, I wouldn't be surprised to see this motion picture making it into the visual categories at the Academy Awards.
While this isn't the best that the franchise has to offer, it's a worthy first entry to a new trilogy. The story provides some additional depth that we didn't get to witness in the Lord of the Rings. The characters are infectious and you'll find yourself caring about the fate of each one of them. The screenplay isn't perfection, as it has some pacing issues, but the dialogue is well-written and it rarely ever gets boring. While this is a long movie, it doesn't feel as long as it actually is. The ending leaves its audience wanting to see what happens next. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey isn't great, but it's a solid first entry to a new trilogy that will hopefully only get better. Recommended.