The return of the franchise was like re-visiting an old friend.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a prequel story to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy that came out a few years ago, all based on the books written by J.R.R. Tolkien. In this film, the story surrounds Bilbo Baggins (Freeman), the uncle of the LOTR protagonist Frodo, who gets a visit from the wizard Gandalf the Grey (McKellen). Gandalf informs Bilbo about an adventure he and a group of dwarves are going to attempt and asks him to be a member of the company.
Bilbo is at first reluctant to join in however the call of adventure brings him out of there and he joins with the dwarves and Gandalf. The leader of the group is Thorin (Armitage), a dwarf king who is trying to retake his home and reclaim his birth right. Through the adventure, Bilbo begins to earn more trust from the group.
Getting out some of the problems of the film first, there could have been a few things cut. The film is nearly three hours long, yet the length is never really felt too much, instead there are just a few scenes (for example those with the Brown Wizard) that feel a bit out of place and unnecessary. These could have been put into an extended addition for those who wanted to connect more of the dots, but for a theatrical version they could have been pulled.
These scenes aside though, the film is really good and makes for a nice launching point into a new trilogy. Once the film gets going into the adventure it becomes quite enjoyable. The best part of the film though is not just the adventurous fun fantasy aspect, but the story of Bilbo Baggins himself.
Bilbo has a really good character arc which shows him going from a bit of a reluctant, out of place member of the group to a legitimate partner and friend of the dwarves. He really makes for a great protagonist and helps the flow a lot. The number one best part of the film by far is the scene involving Gollum and Bilbo; it is very well put together and actually is more exciting than many of the battle scenes.
The characters are well done here. As previously stated Bilbo makes for a great protagonist and is well performed by Martin Freeman. It was also great to see Ian McKellen return as Gandalf too, having played the part before he knows the ins and outs of the role. The leader of the dwarves, Thorin, was also very good. The strong, brave and at times stubborn leader was someone to root for, and he was played with a lot of believability by Richard Armitage.
The rest of the dwarves could have used a little more fleshing out though. It was as if I barely got to know all of them and only really got attached to a few of them. I am ready to let this slide a bit more though as, one, this was the first movie of a trilogy where they can be better known, and two, because this was more Bilbo’s story of how he earns the trust of Thorin.
As expected, the work on the set design and costumes are very well done and it’s easy to tell that there was a lot of work put into it. Peter Jackson does what he did before and really captures both fantasy and real landscapes to create a visually great world. The cg at times did look a bit lacking though. The looks of some of the villains, like the dragon Smaug or the white orc seemed to be a bit artificial looking compared to the likes of the Uruk-hai which looked very real in the “Lord of the Rings.”
Overall, “The Hobbit” isn’t an absolute masterpiece. There are some flaws in things here and there and may not be as good as the films from the previous trilogy. That being said, it’s still fun to watch, the length isn’t ever to strongly felt and the main characters, especially Bilbo make for very good protagonists. This one comes in at a low 4 out of 5.