The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) - The first installment in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy

A worthy prequel to The Lord of the Rings

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the dwarves, middle-earth
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)- By Peter Jackson
Our Rating: 8.0
IMDb Ratings: 8.3
Genre: Fantasy
CastMartin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage
Country: USA | New Zealand
Language: English
Runtime: 169 min

Summary: A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on an "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first installment in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy—the much awaited prequel series to the ubiquitously acclaimed The Lord of the Rings Trilogy—based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. A number of actors have reprised their roles from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Ian Mckellen as Gandalf, Andy Serkis as Gollum, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman, to name a few. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey presents the first part of the quest undertaken by an artless hobbit named Bilbo Baggins and a band of vagrant dwarves to help the latter reclaim their lost kingdom from the clutches of a fiendish dragon named Smaug. It is the grand old wizard Gandalf the Grey who tricks Bilbo into joining the seemingly hopeless quest. Gandalf, having closely observed the hobbits for centuries, is fully aware of the inexorable resolve that the halflings are capable of showing once they are pushed beyond their usual limits. Behind their home-loving, amiable, and dainty façade the hobbits are gritty, adventurous, and enduring creatures fully capable of surprising the fiercest of adversaries. During the course of the journey Bilbo and company must always remain wary of the dangers lurking in the shadowy avenues of the Middle-earth. And the sooner they learn to trust each other’s instincts the better would be the odds of their survival.        

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, as dwarves look on, directed by Peter Jackson
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
It is one thing to make a promise but it is something totally different to be able to fulfill it. While the former at best is a cinch the latter requires commitment of the highest order. And who better than Peter Jackson to demonstrate it! Over the last many decades several filmmakers had dabbled with the idea of adapting Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings into a full-fledged motion-picture, but it was only Jackson who had the vision, ability and self-belief to make it a reality. And the rest is history. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy quite easily features amongst the greatest accomplishments of cinema. Ever since the grand success of the trilogy speculations concerning the film adaptation of The Hobbit had been rife. Jackson had initially planned to make a two-film adaptation of the novel which was to be directed by Guillermo del Toro. The constant delays caused by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s financial turmoil eventually forced del Toro to leave the project. Guillermo del Toro’s ouster resulted in Peter Jackson’s ascension to the helm. Just like with its predecessor, Jackson once again decided to shoot The Hobbit Trilogy back to back in his native New Zealand. The trilogy’s second and the third installments viz. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” are scheduled to release in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Ian McKellen as the grand old wizard Gandalf the Grey, directed by Peter Jackson
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey
In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson yet again succeeds in living up to his promise. Jackson shows why he is hailed in the film circles as an auteur par excellence. When it comes to the fantasy genre Jackson truly has no equal. An Unexpected Journey serves to be a visual spectacle of a very unique kind, one that appeals both to the soul and the intellect. While one is dazzled by the movie’s visual sumptuousness, it’s quite difficult to overlook the emotional subtextmost evident in Bilbo's homesickness and the plight of the dwarves who have been driven out of their rightful dwellings by a ferocious usurper. It’s indeed awe-inspiring to see the way Jackson manages to strike the right kind of balance between style and substance.

Cate Blanchett as Galadriel in The Hobbit, directed by Peter Jackson
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
It’s important to note that Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again is essentially a children’s book and the motifs that it deals with are quite frivolous in comparison to its sequel, The Lord of the Rings, which without doubt is a much profound work of literature. In order to make the plot more engaging for the mature audience, Jackson and his team of writers were forced to make several adjustments to the adapted plot. They introduced several additional plot details, mostly extracted from Tolkien’s unpublished notes. It left them with enough content to make a three-part adaptation instead of a two-part one as was previously planned. Jackson explains, “A lot of the embellishment, almost all comes from Tolkien because he wrote a lot of notes for an expanded version that he was going to revise after The Lord of the Rings. There were elements looking back at The Hobbit that he wished he'd included.”

The character Gollum, performed by Andy Serkis, in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, directed by Peter Jackson
The character Gollum, performed by Andy Serkis, in The Hobbit
Overall, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an exhilarating cinematic experience for viewers of all ages and groups. Vintage Jackson, the movie serves to be a fine specimen of masterful storytelling. Unlike most modern-day movies of its kind, An Unexpected Journey never lets story take the backseat and while technology plays a pivotal part the real emphasis is always on the movie’s plot. Most of the sequences in the movie are beautifully crafted. The one in which Bilbo encounters the ever so spiteful Gollum remains this critic's absolute favorite.  Andrew Lesnie’s awe-inspiring cinematography is another strong point of the movie. The same can be said of Howard Shore’s titillating background music. While the movie’s use of CGI and VFX is quite exemplary in itself the 3D and HFR effects serve to be a real icing on the cake that makes the movie quite unique even in comparison to its predecessors. Jackson manages to elicit worthy performances from his entire cast of actors. Here, I would like to make a special mention of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Ian Mckellen as Gandalf the Grey. An Unexpected Journey has set the ball rolling for the final two installments of the trilogy, but what still remains to be seen is whether it would be possible for Jackson and team to match the success of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, both from the financial as well as critical point of view? 

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  1. Have heard a lot of negative reviews about "Hobbit." Now a very positive review from you has definitely taken away the doubts I have in this movie. Will watch it soon now.

  2. Yes, please go ahead with it... I am certain that you will like it. And do come back once you have watched it...!!!

  3. I found the movie quite entertaining although this is not exactly my genre. I wish there could be more real conversations, and more characters I could remember distinctly from the movie. I liked it all the same.

  4. Well, I can't disagree with you in that regard but that's an inherent trait of the fantasy genre... :-)

  5. I know that I am going to like this movie even though I am yet to see it. My concern is: should I watch it in HFR or as any other normal film; but The Hobbit can't be any other normal film now, can it?

  6. Just make sure that you watch it in 3D... HFR or not, it should not make much of a difference. Anyway, enjoy the movie :-)

  7. finally, that's exactly my own thoughts of the movie. After many negative reviews there is one that describes this movie for what it is, i certainly loves the scene with gollum and i'm waiting to see the rest of the trilogy

  8. I am glad you liked it... I too simply can't wait for the next two installments.


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