Matt's Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
"Lord of the Rings," this most certainly is not.
Don't get me wrong; I am an unabashed fanboy and I was grinning ear to ear as I witnessed the return of the Shire and familiar faces like Frodo, but with this first installment of "The Hobbit"... well, it's just not as magical, not as majestic, and not as enthralling as the masterpiece of a trilogy that came before it. And in some ways, it must be forgiven for that; you can't go into a movie with such high expectations, or you'll surely be let down.
But at times, "The Hobbit" feels like mere "Lord of the Rings" fan fiction, just with some of the same actors and the same budget. Is it bad that the best parts of the film are the numerous callbacks and nods to its predecessors? (The scene with Gollum is especially entertaining, and it's sad to think we'll never see his character on the big screen again). I think the main problem here is character development: by the end of "The Fellowship of the Ring," you were invested in their quest; you felt Frodo's burden; and you were given numerous reasons to care about every member of this little gang that was off to save the world. But even after three hours of "The Hobbit," I was never given a reason to care about any of these characters (besides Bilbo). Truly, I really could care less what happens to any of these dwarves. And that lowers the stakes and makes the storytelling less compelling, because we're not as fully invested.
But all those gripes aside, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is still an enjoyable film. Martin Freeman in particular is fantastic (I cannot see any actor working today doing a better job at playing Bilbo Baggins), and there are some great actions sequences. It's definitely a must-see for any Middle Earth fan, and any fan of movies in general. And even if it may not feel like a seminal addition to "The Lord of the Rings," it's an earnest beginning to a new trilogy from Peter Jackson. Though I have to wonder, would I be as excited to see the next film if "The Hobbit" had been our first glimpse into Tolkien's tales? I think the only reason I eagerly await "The Desolation of Smaug" come 12 months from now, is because I know the potential Peter Jackson can achieve in his Hobbit-based stories. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I don't know.