When the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) shows up unexpectedly at the door of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Bilbo’s life is changed forever. Bilbo sets out on a journey with Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the rest of his dwarf crew to retake the dwarf homeland.
The Hobbit films are to The Lord of the Rings as the Star Wars prequel trilogy is to the original trilogy so naturally I immediately began The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey after finishing The Return of the King. I wasn’t sure what to expect, whether it was going to be exactly like the last trilogy but with different characters or a similar story but different. Thankfully, it was the latter.
Right off the bat, I was happy that this is a very dwarf-centered story. Other than Gimli in the previous films, there weren’t any other dwarfs. With such a large group, there was a wide range of personalities among them. There was the quiet leader, the old councils, the experienced warriors, and the younger fighters. Watching the early scene with them all at the table in Bilbo’s house really gives you a feel for who each of them are.
In The Fellowship of the Ring, there was a lot of set up before the group set out on their journey. After the aforementioned scene at Bilbo’s house, which was relatively early in the film, the group’s purpose was given and they were off on their journey. This made the movie move quicker and didn’t feel like the beginning was dragging like in Fellowship.
One thing The Lord of the Rings series have done consistently well is casting. Martin Freeman did a great job as the young Bilbo Baggins. I really liked him in the first season of Fargo and the little mannerisms he brought to his character. He does the same thing here, bringing that extra nuances to Bilbo that not many actors can do.
Earlier, I compared the Hobbit series to the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Other than the similarity of taking place before the trilogy that came before, The Hobbit also uses much more CGI that The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Many of the characters, especially the orcs, are CGI this time. I liked the makeup and costumes for the orc soldiers particularly in The Return of the King, so to see every single orc animated here was a little bit of a let down.
I thought The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was GOOD :-). Compared to The Fellowship of the Ring, it gets the heroes on their journey much faster and with less set up and exposition. Other than seeing the orcs go from physical costumes to computer animation, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a good start to the trilogy.
Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Guillermo del Tory – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer
Martin Freeman – Bilbo
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
Richard Armitage – Thorin
Ken Stott – Balin
Graham McTavish – Dwalin
William Kircher – Bifur / Tom Troll
James Nesbitt – Bofur
Stephen Hunter – Bombur
Dean O’Gorman – Fili
Aidan Turner – Kili
John Callen – Oin
Peter Hambleton – Gloin / William Troll
Jed Brophy – Nori
Mark Madlow – Dori / Bert Troll
Adam Brown – Ori
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Cate Blanchett – Galandriel
Lee Pace – Thranduil
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis – Gollum
Sylvester McCoy – Radagast
Barry Humphries – Great Goblin
Manu Bennett – Azog
Benedict Cumberbatch – Necromancer