Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Every tale has its beginning.  For a couple of unsuspecting hobbits,  this was most certainly so.  Both hobbits began their tale and embarked on a long journey.  A journey that would change both of their lives forever.  First, with Bilbo Baggins.  And then, finally, with Frodo Baggins.  Nine years ago, we saw Frodo’s tale unfold.  He found the ring that was made and then made a long journey to the cracks of Mount Doom, where he was able to unmake it.  With that, Frodo’s tale came to an end, as he made his way back back to the Shire, with his other hobbit friends that accompanied him on his long journey.

But that was only Frodo’s tale.  What about Bilbo Baggins’ tale?  That clever old hobbit of Bag End returned from his journey with a rather big secret.  A secret that would require the telling of his tale to explain.  But this was not the only thing going on in this tale.  Some dwarfs needed to recover their treasure from an evil dragon.  This is the premise of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the long awaited prequel released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM Studios.

To start things off, this movie is based off of The Hobbit, a masterpiece written by J.R.R. Tolkien.  He has also created timeless classic The Lord of the Rings.  A classic that is still loved to this day.

While Tolkien has created pure literary gold, acclaimed director Peter Jackson is the one who has brought his classics to life.  We have already seen his work with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The movie adaptations are the best that I have seen of any adaptation dealing with the Lord of the Rings franchise.  But how does Jackson fare with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey?  Is the movie a dazzling gem of gold like the trilogy, or is it a smoldering pile of ruins?  Let’s find out.

The movie begins with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) with Frodo (Elijah Wood), beginning to write the full story of his adventure that he went on 60 years ago.  We then see the prosperity of the dwarves, living in Erebor and their demise, when Smaug the Dragon arrives.  Having already destroyed the town of Dale, he drives all the dwarves out of Erebor.

After this, Bilbo officially begins his tale, with Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) pulling a trick on him.  A large host of dwarves enter, leaving Bilbo to feed them all.  The true reason behind all this was that the dwarves needed a burglar for their journey.  Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the leader of the band of dwarves, is on a journey to find their “long forgotten gold”.  Bilbo wants no part in this journey.  The very next day, however, he changes his mind, almost getting left behind.

The journey begins, leaving Bilbo without the comforts of home.  The group encounters mountain trolls, which end up getting petrified by sunlight.

After this, they encounter Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy).  He mentions how a strange presence that he encountered at Dol Guldur is poisoning the forest.  The group is then chased by Orcs on Wargs.  They were able to escape with the help of a couple Elven riders.

The company then enters the Elven stronghold of Rivendell, where Elrond (Hugo Weaving) was able to interpret the moon runes on Thorin’s map.  He explains that there is a secret door that will only be visible on Durin’s Day.  Following this, Gandalf talks with Elrond, Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Saruman the White (Sir Christopher Lee), secretly sending Bilbo and the dwarves away towards the Misty Mountains.

After the Misty Mountains, Bilbo ends up in a cave with Gollum (Andy Serkis).  With Gollum losing the ring, Bilbo finds it and hides it in his pocket.  A game of riddles then begins between Bilbo and Gollum.  If Bilbo wins, Gollum will show him the way out.  If Gollum wins, then he will eat Bilbo.  Does he find the way out?  And what about the troubles that his dwarf-friends are facing?  When will this journey end?  Watch the movie and find out.

I completely understood the length of the movie, considering that nearly three hours was barely enough time to even get to Erebor, let alone the Battle of the Five Armies and the fight with Smaug.  They didn’t even come close to this.  But with two more movies on the way, it is clearly understandable why the plot cliffhanged at the end.  The plot advanced normally, with some other surprises along the way.  The music was amazing.  Especially all the versions of Misty Mountains Cold.

Getting to the characters, they were all portrayed faithfully as they were in the book.  We have Bilbo Baggins, with the Gandalf that we all know and love.  All the dwarves were portrayed well.  Gollum is another character that made the movie for me.  There was the inclusion of Radagast the Brown.  He was a rather interesting character, but in reality had no place in the movie.  Furthermore, while Elrond appeared in the movie as he should, Galadriel and Saruman the White were strangely present. Besides these odd inclusions, the characters were all executed quite well and were all unique in the manner that Tolkien would’ve intended them.

This movie did have a couple nitpicks, but they were not too many.  One of them dealt with the lines when Bilbo was with the trolls.  In the movie, Bilbo said “burglar….Hobbit”.  In the book,  he said “bur – a hobbit”.  I would rather have the trolls call him a “burrahobit” than a “burglar hobbit”.  Another nitpick was the inclusion of Radagast the Brown.  While he is an actual character in the Lord of the Rings universe, he is not anywhere to be found in the original book.  The last nitpick I have deals with the meeting at Rivendell.  During the meeting, Galadriel and Saruman the White were present.  There was no mention of them in the book!  I found this to be fan-servicey and a way to get more familiar characters back in the movie. If all these nitpicks were not there, the movie would’ve been a little better.

How did The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey do?  Looking at the box office results, it’s doing amazing, but it could do better.  Falling short of its $100 million opening weekend goal, it grossed $84.6 million during its opening weekend.  Even with a modest opening, it is still the best opening of any of the past Lord of the Rings movies.  Fellowship of the Ring grossed $47.2 million on its opening weekend.  The Two Towers grossed $62 million and Return of the King grossed $72.6 million.  The current domestic gross of this movie is $92.3 million. In adding the foreign gross of $138.2 million, the worldwide gross stands at $230.5 million.  With a $270 million production budget, it will surely make it back within the next weekend.  With all nitpicks aside,  I really enjoyed the movie.  I loved seeing the breathtaking scenery of Middle Earth again and I loved the music.  Jackson has done it again.  It is a visual masterpiece, complete with breathtaking scenery and visuals.  The reprising of Gandalf’s and Gollum’s role was important to the success of the movie for me, and I felt that it really made the movie.  With all differences set aside from the book, I think that Jackson has the formula.  The formula that he used in the trilogy is used again in this movie.  As every tale has a beginning, I believe that this tale began well.  I look forward to how this tale continues with the next two parts of this amazing prologue.  I give The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a 5 out of 5.