- Directed by Peter Jackson
- November 28, 2012 (Wellington premiere) / December 12, 2012 (New Zealand) / December 14, 2012 (US)
- Based on the 1937 novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Bilbo Baggins is convinced by the wizard Gandalf to accompany thirteen Dwarves on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug.
I think it can be safely said that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as well as its accompanying sequels have been a bit polarizing despite their overall quality. I certainly understand when it comes to the use of CGI there being some issues but on the whole these are as deep and as good as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This tries and succeeds at being about more than monsters and magic.
And I certainly get issues with the addition of material to expand a short children’s book into an epic trilogy. For me whenever material gets added to a film it often ends up being making the film a complete bastardization of concepts and characters in the source material as a whole. Worse you can tell even if you are unfamiliar with the source. The tone and quality change.
What saves An Unexpected Journey from that fate is that those behind this film made every effort to remain true to what J. R. R. Tolkien may have wanted if he were doing the work. They weren’t trying to put their own spin on the narrative but rather molded what extra was crafted in the image of what their fellow creator may have possibly done. That’s important. If you must add material, then put yourself in the shoes of whoever’s universe you are dabbling in and ask yourself what they would have done. If you were unwilling to do that then what you get will be of very poor quality.
There are themes of friendship and stepping outside of one’s conference zone. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) has lived all his life in the safety and certainty of the shire. He dreamed of adventure and excitement as a boy but as he grew into an adult gave up those childhood dreams. He gave up that adventurous spark that helps make life worth living. Bilbo must find the courage to take a chance and chase a dream.
There is also the theme of home. Bilbo must leave his to help others get theirs back. We all need a place to call our own no matter what that is. The dwarves don’t have that in any way, shape, or form. They are outsiders who need to get back their mountain kingdom for as much of a reason as to have a land of their own as it is to reclaim something that they personally have lost. This has left them less as individuals. The reclaiming of their home parallels reclaiming that portion of themselves.
An Unexpected Journey has an epic feel by the end. It just builds and builds with the stakes feeling greater than just liberating a mountain. The threat to come-the evil dragon which forced the dwarves away-is not shown in any direct way during the course of the film. The most we get are shadows and verbal mentions. We don’t even get a full on showing at the end of the movie. All we get is a big ol’ eye. We were teased and then we got a tease at the end to keep us coming back.
The acting and script is fantastic. This isn’t fantasy for fun but it is fantasy as fine drama. There’s perhaps a little more humor in this film then there were any of the LOTR movies. And that is in the beginning with the film taking on an ever-increasing serious tone. That could be indicative of additional material, but the flow is so seamless that it is hard to tell.
The music is absolutely beautiful here. Best way to describe it is a very old world. It compliments the film and further pulls you into that world.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a great continuation of the LOTR concept. It has excitement and drama and stunning visuals in a great story. It is definitely a must see!