Once again Peter Jackson takes us on a magical journey through Middle Earth, the fictional realm of Dwarves, Goblins and of course, Hobbits, in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Jackson’s latest entry in the series, adapted for the screen from J.R.R. Tolkein’s popular series of novels, is overall an enjoyable experience, very accurate to the source material.
The film opens on the aged Bilbo Baggins, (Ian Holm) as he prepares for the party that opens The Fellowship of the Rings. There is a brief cameo appearance by Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins.
In this opening narrative, Bilbo is explaining the origins of his adventures. Unfortunately this slows the beginning of the film, as Peter Jackson has forgotten the first rule of storytelling: show, don’t tell.
Luckily, the film becomes much more engrossing when we are introduced to the younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman.) Bilbo is relaxing on his porch when approachedby Gandalf (Ian McKellen), a wizard who is secretly looking for the final member of a company for an adventure.
Gandalf puts a mark on Bilbo’s door guiding the company of twelve Dwarves to Bilbo’s home. Amongst the dwarves is Thorin Oakensheild, (Richard Armitage) a descendant of kings who hopes to reclaim the dwarven homeland from the Dragon Smaug. The ensuing scenes are some of the most engaging in the movie, with excellent dialog and enchanting music.
With desire to experience a world he knows nothing about Bilbo joins the company of dwarves and sets out on an adventure. Though he is a reluctant adventurer, often to the chagrin of he and his companions.
The Goblin Town scene is an action packed chase sequence. Bilbo’s initial encounter with Gollum (Andy Serkis) will have moviegoers on the edge of their seats.
Overall, the movie is well paced with a few minor moments that threaten to derail it. The story of Thorin’s past is another flashback with voice-over, but not as distracting as some of the other moments. Perhaps most out of place is the background plot involving Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy). Jackson is obviously hoping to further detail this story in the following entries in the Hobbit series, but for now, they don’t add much to the film.
What really works about these movies, and this one especially, is the care and love the director and actors give to the original source material. It shows in the performances and the detail of the setting. As far as translating a book to film, you can do a lot worse than Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.