The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Out Now On-Demand
Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth with part one of his trilogy adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. A young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, The Office), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage, Spooks) and a posse of dwarves journey to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug.
Their quest will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Although they've got to get to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the goblin tunnels where Bilbo meets Gollum (Andy Serkis). It is there with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo gains possession of Gollum's "precious" ring... a simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth.
Rating: M contains fantasy violence
New Zealand, USA
Despite benefiting from the world-establishing goodwill generated by the Lord of the Rings movies, this film stands ably on its own, offering up generous piles of large scale fantasy underscored by genuine emotional heft and boundary-pushing visuals.
The structure heavily recalls Fellowship – opening history lesson; Hobbiton tranquility; a long walk; an Elven meeting and some fun inside a mountain. But the character dynamics and gargantuan set-pieces set it apart.
The theme of stepping outside one's comfort zone to engage in the big, bad world is palpably evoked by Martin Freeman's Bilbo. The hesitant, beleaguered Freeman is so perfectly cast, it's easy to see why Peter Jackson shifted the shooting schedule to accommodate him.
Jackson does an admirable job of corralling the thirteen dwarves, who each somehow manage to display individual traits. As their leader Thorin Oakenshield, Richard Armitage grandly embodies the heroism of the story, and will surely be the recipient of a Viggo Mortensen-esque career bump.
The tone occasionally skews a little younger than LOTR, but the disparity isn't huge. It does allow the low-brow humour of Jackson's early work to shine through however, especially in the form of the grotesquely jowly, flatulent Goblin King, performed mo-cap style by Dame Edna herself, Barry Humphries.
Spartacus star Manu Bennett gives a fantastic mo-cap performance as pale orc Azog, once again displaying Jackson and company's gift for creating iconic antagonists where Tolkien didn't. Indeed, any concerns about this feeling too much like preamble had evaporated by the end of the film. There's a natural arc here and it runs its course.
Enterprises of this scale are par for the course in Hollywood these days – but this film simply reinforces what Peter Jackson and his collaborators do better than anyone else: they take you on a real emotional journey, unexpected or otherwise.
Total Film (UK)
AV Club (USA)
Little White Lies (UK)
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
Hobbit fan from way back
What can I say, I'm a biased fan
Seen Them All
A very slow and laboured start to the movie had me wondering if I had made a mistake, but 'No' it got better and moved along quite nicely, didn't even realise that it was 2hrs 46mins long by the end of the movie, that's how nicely it progressed.
I loved the trilogy and had high hopes for this movie, even though I truly thought there was no way it could compare, (Fact is, I hate the Hobbits make-up and effects) but I was wrong, I wouldn't give it a Gold medal, but it is a great Silver.
Hits the spot
Starts way too slow, but picks up and ends on par with LOTR. The Gollum scene is the highlight.
Did I catch a bad print?.
I apologise now if I offend, but I hope that all those folks who saw the Hobbit and didn't enjoy it may find comfort in this review. I really enjoyed the Ring trilogy and had high hopes for this one. The 48 frames per second concept made perfect sense to me (while I must admit the combo with 3D seemed an unusual choice) and I went in ready to be enthralled. What I got was the overall impression that something had gone horribly wrong. The tonal range was so blown out that the richness and range of colors had been severely reduced. I had the feeling I was watching a film shot entirely on a set in the Hollywood backlots. The close-ups certainly showed every pore on the skin but the sweeping NZ landscapes looked yellow and overly contrasty. And the sound was turned up to ear-splitting volume, was that the instruction that arrived with the print?
The only saving grace of this film was Martin Freemen who was relaxed and charming from start to finish. I can see why Sir Peter waited while he finished Sherlock Holmes. Without him this would have been one long in-your-face battle with no respite. With those who said this little book should never have been stretched to 3 films I must now agree. I think Sir Peter lost the plot, literally, with this one.
A very nice balance between adventure ,duty and good old fashioned merryment. Jackson really captured the spirit of the creatures of middle earth perfectly in an "Unexpected Journey".
He stayed very close to the original book thanks in part to the enormous talent and capability of "weta workshop".
The sound track was sublime and its quite difficult to get the haunting dwarf melody "misty mountain cold" out of ones memory once its been loaded.
Younger fans of 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy won't be disappointed with this return to Middle Earth, which delivers in spectacle and family-friendly adventure. After a slow beginning, 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' kicks into gear with a narrative of walking, chasing, escaping, running and hiding and that echoes 'The Fellowship of the Ring' to the point that it feels more like a Christmas family dinner reunion - with the likes of Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen and Cate Blanchett returning to reprise their 'Rings' roles.
As with 'King Kong' and 'The Return of the King,' Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth is overlong - especially bearing in mind the brevity of Tolkein's source material. But Martin Freeman makes an excellent Bilbo and it's in his scenes with the likes of Andy Serkis' Gollum that the film excels. Whilst the narrative is occasionally flabby and the childish gags silly but fun, the technology on display is to the fore and it's hard not to be reminded of the 'Star Wars' prequel trilogy movies which often played more like an advert for what can be achieved with cutting-edge tech than solid examples of storytelling and character-building.
As for the high frame rate? It's not just the story that's lighter but the look too, and whilst the 3D looks great, it may take audiences time to adapt or even accept images so pristine that at times it's like being immersed in the latest 'Halo' game.
Like a computer game, once 'The Hobbit' gets going it's a fun ride that should keep little ones engrossed and die-hard 'Rings' fans happy. As for the rest of us? The technology on display, the locations, sets, costumes, make-up and weapons are, as we expect of the team behind 'The Lord of the Rings,' first rate and the spectacle on offer is suitably spectacular. But one can't help feeling that with a little more judicious editing and a little less desire to throw everything in from 'The Rings' in an attempt to cement links between the two trilogies, this could have been a far leaner, meaner and more satisfying introduction to the latest missive from Middle Earth.
A must see
The Hobbit is a must see for any true cinema lover. The sheer scale of it and the phenomenal visual experience is amazing, and even if you are not a fan of the story, I highly recommend going just for the visual experience. The high frame rate really does make the 3D experience so much better, even if it does take a little getting used to. The story does start off a little slow, but as soon as the action does start it makes the 3 hour run time go pretty quick. I am really looking forward to the next one!
An Unexpected Movie
Not having read "The Hobbit" I was pleasantly surprised with the ease of story flow, with only my knowledge of the past Lord Of The Rings films, I found myself indulged into the movie, understanding the story line completely.
Although to understand some scenes in the movie, it is vital to see the Lord Of The Rings movies, or of course read the books, I found some scenes could not be understood without seeing the previous LOTR movies, but luckily, I had.
The craft of Jackson and the cinematography used in the film was second to none. A large variety of shots were used, and there was a well thought out use of pans and tracking shots. Being a amateur short film maker myself, I could appreciate the cinematography a lot more, especially being familiar with the editing software Jackson uses.
I found the film very beautiful and I recommend seeing it in 3D as it gives you a more indepth feel of middle earth.
The film that Jackson Made
This film is an awe-filling stroll through the imagination of its creators. Watching it in HFR was not nauseating, head-giving or experience ruining. It was a opportunity to appreciate the finely detailed clothing, textures, colours and expansive and unique sets.
The story was elaborate in that in investigated every sentence of plot that was tossed into the book. The pacing wasn't perfect, but this can be easily overlooked. I am a reader and lover of Tolkein, but I am completely comfortable with the fact that the book and the film are two different things. No, the film didn't really play out like the story I had imagined in the book. But I did genuinely enjoy looking at the same events through someone else's eyes. There are plenty of winks and nods to those who have read the Hobbit though, which is fun.
Richard Armitage's Thorin was surprisingly excellent, and this film belongs to him as much as Bilbo. Martin Freeman's Bilbo carried the film well throughout the slow beginning, and reached his peak in the Riddles in the Dark sequences with a Gollum (hats off to Andy Serkis too!).
This one endearing film - as imperfect and lovely as Tolkein's classic.