Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O'Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Ian Holm, Andy Serkin, Elijah Wood, Christipher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch, and more.
Directed by: Peter Jackson Screenplay by: Fran Walsh, Philipa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro Based on the novel "The Hobbit" by: J R R Tolkien Cinematography by: Andrew Lesnie Original Music by: Howard Shore
Premise: Bilbo Baggins' tranquil life is turned upside down when Gandalf comes to viist. Not only is the wizard wanting to take Bilbo on an adventure, but he invites thirteen dwarves to come meet at his home. Worse, Gadalf has told the dwarves that Bilbo is a burglar and that he's the right person to invite along on their grand quest. And much to his own surprise, Bilbo decides to go along after all. (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Martin Freeman is perfect as the reluctant adventurer Bilbo Baggins. Ian McKellen was incredibly expressive as he reprised his role as Gandalf the Grey. Richard Armitage shows Thorin's greatness as well as his fallacies without saying a word. Andy Selkin brought Gollum to life once more, flicking skillfully around the split personality of the pitiful creature.
2) Special Effects - Thumbs Up: Most of the special effects went toward the animation of a lot of the unusual wildlife and other sentient species. And while they moved and interacted well, and I got a good giggle of thinking the Pale Orc looked a lot like Benedict Cumberbatch, I was somewhat disappointed by the fact the orcs, the goblins, and the trolls looked similar to one another. Even for gamers and fantasy fans, the film made it hard on occasion to know which type of foe the adventurers were facing -- all three were mostly hairless with pasty type skin. When standing still the differences were more evident, but during combat and ambushes it was difficult.
Loved the dwarven city when it was shown in its heyday during a flashback. They did several panning shots of the amazing place, but they were rather fast, so it was hard to take everything in. The few places they did slow down on looked amazing!
The small forest animals, the spiders, and the giant birds were incredibly detailed and turned out wonderfully. The few glimpses of Smaug at the beginning and the end were very nicely done. Totally loved the rock warriors too.
3) Plot/Story - Thumbs Up: For those who may not yet realize it, the novel the movie was based on has been split into three movies. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is but the first, to be followed in 2013 by "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," and in 2014 by "The Hobbit: There and Back Again." For seeing a detailed film and getting a lot of time to become familiar with the characters, this is a great thing, but it can also be perilous.
I read the novel thirty plus years ago, so aside from the occasional moment of 'aha!', I've forgotten most of the details, so I can't honestly say how faithful the movie adaptation coincides with the novel, but I did feel it definitely caught the spirit of the book. Even for such a long film, there's plenty to absorb and on the last half progresses at an incredible pace as the adventurers are beset with problem after problem.
For this first film, they follow the thread of Thorin's adamant belief in the worthless effort to ask the elves fir help and of Bilbo not belonging in his quest. The latter thread builds to a climax and resolution, making a nice story arc for the film to hinge on. And by cutting the novel into three parts, they allow for the telling of the story to be deeper, so the audience can get to know this odd bunch of dwarves and Middle Earth itself.
4) Stunts - Thumbs Up: Faked, real or both, the combat and physical scenes came out quite well. I have to wonder at how many plates were broken during the beautiful dish tossing scene. The insane combat in the goblin domain and the subsequent orc/warg battle had to be a choreography nightmare.
The scene with the dwarves on a spit was priceless.
5) Locations/Cinematography - Thumbs Up: The film was filled with grand sweeping shots, the typical adventurer party going over the spine of mountains shots, and breathtaking scenery shots. Each location was unique and interesting. Definitely a lot of visuals to enjoy and enough variety to make the audience feel they were truly on a journey.
6) Costuming/Makeup - Total Thumbs Up: A great amount of detail was spent making the dwarves look as unique as their culture. The dwarf king even had 'bling' for his beard. The dwarven hairstyles ran the gauntlet from shaven with tattoos to intricate triple splits with braids. Made the elves look totally boring in comparison as they pretty much only wore long straight hair. The dwarves even gave the elves some competition on stylish wear. Kind of fun!
Conclusion: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a fun, fantasy adventure film that captures the imagination and does a great job of bringing Tolkien's world to life. (If you see the film in IMAX 3D (well worth it) you also get an extended 9 minute preview for "Star Trek Into Darkness." (6 minutes of new footage and a replay of the preview already out.)
Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price To See Again!)