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Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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The Hobbit is definitely worth reading, but if you find its 305 pages a little daunting then Peter Jackson’s new release will do just as well. The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey carries all of Tolkien’s original elements along with adding a few twists of its own: new characters and dark suspense connect it to Lord of the Rings, yet it still carries The Hobbit book’s plotline in a way Tolkien fans would appreciate.

Martin Freeman masterfully portrays the young and respectable Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who has never had an adventure and certainly never plans to. All of that is about to change when Gandalf the wizard shows up with a crowd of dwarves. They invite Bilbo to be the “burglar” and join them on their adventure to slay the dragon Smaug. It takes a long time for Bilbo to accept but he eventually runs after them and finds himself in an adventure across Middle Earth.

Thorin the Dwarf is heir to the Lonely Mountain. Only by slaying the dragon Smog will he come to his inheritance and he, like the other Dwarves, have been wandering for years and waiting for the right moment to return. Bilbo, on the other hand, has never even left the Shire. He would like nothing more than to be back at home; everything about the adventure makes him uncomfortable. Eventually he realizes that just as he belongs home, the Dwarves belong to the Lonely Mountain. He chooses to help them find their way home even when he has the opportunity of turning back.

Tolkien’s book is simply a jovial tale about a Hobbit, thirteen Dwarves and a wizard going to slay a dragon; it gives little hint to The Lord of the Rings besides Gollum’s ring. The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey points more strongly to The Lord of the Rings and brings out some of the implications of the book that a reader may overlook. Many scenes  point to the Necromancer rising to power and I’m curious as to how they will conclude this semi-plot in this series.

Peter Jackson has successfully made this movie more invigorating than his previous ones, switching back between action and dialogue skillfully and keeping the audience dedicated to the characters and story line. I expectantly wait for the release of the next movie in December.

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  • Zee

    Um, the dragon is actually called Smaug, not Smog.

  • walter

    The plotline with The Necromancer is written by Tolkien in the appendices of Lord of the Rings, so if you want to know how it ends, you can just read those.

  • Northern Star

    Whilst still a fantastically entertaining and rousing film, ‘An Unexpected Journey’ is clearly too long, with the decision to extend the story across three films no doubt the reason behind it’s unnecessarily elongated and padded-out running time…

    It’s worth noting that before the decision to make ‘The Hobbit’ a trilogy, ‘An Unexpected Journey’ was to end with the famous barrels-in-the-river sequence (the exact half-way point in the book), which would have made for an infinitely better not to mention tighter (despite a longer running time) affair, a pity we won’t ever see that film…

  • Red

    @Northern Star To be honest, it seems that Peter Jackson is actually dividing six chapters per film while adding content from the appendices. So far appendices content has been a flashback of the battle between the Dwarves and Orcs at Moria and Radaghast discovering what evil lies in Dol Guldur (I don’t know if Radaghast went in the appendices though). So for the next two movies I am guessing it will show another flashback but of Gandalf at Dol Guldur finding Thorin’s undead father but not knowing who the Necromancer is yet. And yes, those Dol Guldur events actually happened years apart from Tolkien’s original writing. Gandalf went first to Dol Guldur to find who was running things but no one was there. Then he returns years later to find that it’s Sauron and warns the White Council. But instead in the movie it’s Radaghast who warns Gandalf with proof of the Witch King blade. So at the same time of the Quest for Erebor, the attack and driving out of Sauron from Dol Guldur takes place (I predict in the third film). And about the barrels in the river thing, An Unexpected Journey actually ended exactly six chapters into the book. Which involved the Goblins that were replaced by Orcs chasing Bilbo and co. up into the trees, from there on the eagles rescue them in the book and that sixth chapter ends. So who knows, Desolation of Smaug will probably end with Smaug actually leaving the Lonely Mountain all pissed off and what not.

  • Northern Star

    @Red dude, thanks for your answer, I know ‘An Unexpected Journey’ as it stands now ends six chapters into the book, what I meant was until the decision to extend the film adaptation from two to three films, the first of which – the aforementioned ‘…Journey’ – was originally set to end with the ‘barrels’ sequence, and I believe it was a mistake to re-write that structure and extend the films by another installment, just my humble opinion.

    As for the appendices material included, I also believe Peter Jackson should have stuck to the novel and had Gandalf fully aware that the Necromancer is indeed a re-emergent Sauron long before the Erebor quest began… it would make more sense as to why he agrees to help the dwarves in their quest, namely to keep Smaug out of a possible alliance with Sauron in the future. I just happen to believe if you’re going to change the content of the book, there has to be a real and substantive reason to do so, and Jackson’s change does not qualify as one.

    The siege of Dol Guldur is not in any way an essential part of the central story of ‘The Hobbit’ and, in my opinion, should NOT be included in the theatrical cut of the second film (if it was still two films that is), but rather left for the inevitable extended edition… they should stick to the core story of Bilbo and the dwarves’ quest, and leave the broader material for the longer version, I think so anyway…

  • Northern Star

    Have to add something I unfortunately realized AFTER I had posted the above; namely that Gandalf stating his plan to keep Smaug away from a potential alliance with Sauron in future was expressed in Tolkien’s posthumous novel ‘Unfinished Tales’ which Peter Jackson and team do not possess the film rights to, so were likely unable to include Gandalf expressing such a plan in the films (short of a further lawsuit from the Tolkien estate that is)… this obviously explains the direction the films have went with in regards to the Necromancer subplot, and that clearly leads to the inclusion of Radaghast as a necessary plot device, but I still feel the whole Necromancer subplot would have been best left for the extended editions, keeping the centrality of focus in the theatrical versions on Bilbo and the dwarves’ quest…

  • Gerry Mander

    So let me get this straight, Peter Jackson felt the need to omit Saruman (one of the key characters in the entire story) from the theatrical cut of ‘The Return of the King’ but felt it important enough to include Radaghast (clearly not a key character in the core story) in the theatrical cut of ‘An Unexpected Journey’… anyone else think that logic is a little, uh, skewed!?

  • Tim

    Stop complaining about the movie already and just enjoy it for what it is. We all knew what these movies were going to be like when Peter Jackson got tapped as the director. Had the movies been made by a different director or even before Lord of the Rings this would be a different movie, but its not and that’s the reality. I for one thoroughly enjoyed Jackson’s take on The Hobbit and I think when all is said and done that The Hobbit trilogy and the LOTR trilogy will be considered the best movie saga of all time.