Director and Sir Peter Jackson returns again for the beginning epic adventure in The Hobbit film trilogy – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which leads into The Lord of the Rings film trilogy – one of the best, most complete film series in history winning 17 Academy Awards.
Set in Middle-earth, Jackson uses camera shots full of depth and detail, especially when filming the elf characters, which compensates for their small sizes. Enhanced special effects and film speeds (a photo-realistic 48 frames per second) get high commendations for accurate details in the special effects such as realistically constructed creatures and emotionally impactful effects. Combined with Howard Shore’s solid musical score, the visuals in the film reach your heart and mind in ways few films can.
Based on the popular J.R.R. Tolkien book series, important events pass from “history to legend to myth” as various characters including dwarves, trolls, wargs, sorcerers, goblins and a one-armed orc, flow well through the plot. All these elements require lengthy setup at the beginning with the promise of a rousing continuation in the remaining two-thirds of this film and future installments.
The strong acting prowess from Martin Freeman (PBS’s Sherlock, The Office (U.K. version)) as the lead character Bilbo Baggins really does not need the support of familiar actors and their respective characters, though it certainly enhances the experience. Sir Ian McKellen (X-Men) returns as Gandolf, a wise and powerful wizard, and Andy Serkis also returns in his defining role as Gollum.
More familiar actors and their respective characters also include Cate Blanchett as Galadriel; Ian Holm as the older Bilbo; Elijah Wood as Frodo, Bilbo’s nephew; Hugo Weaving (Matrix) as Lord Elrond; and Christopher Lee, the only cast member to actually meet Tolkien, as Saurman.
Gandalf and Galadriel have an especially memorable scene together while the main plot concentrates on the camaraderie among the characters reclaiming the lost dwarf homeland, Erebor, from the dragon Smaug. Richard Armitage makes his debut as the dwarf king, Thorin Oakenshield.
Knowledgeable fans of the films and book series can obviously enjoy a more enhanced experience, especially considering various character’s arcs, development, and future actions, though viewers new to this film or book series can also experience a deeper experience with the potential for an even deeper involvement in the epic events without any predictability.
Top notch production values, superb acting, and the adventurous scenarios generally overshadow deterrents like lacking emotional impact, more distinguishable new characters, and enemies that are more comical than menacing.
This approximately two hour and 46 minute adventure fantasy film has many instances of mental action where trust, bravery, duress, and intelligence play important factors.
Highly recommended (***1/2), and rated PG-13 for violence and filmed simultaneously with the future film sequels The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (to be released on December 13, 2013) and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (July 18, 2014).