Garrett's Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is Peter Jackson's love letter to J.R.R. Tolkien's mutli-faceted LOTR universe, as well as his beloved fan-base. He and his wife/producer/writer Fran Walsh (and Guillermo Del Toro) have crafted an official adaptation worthy of the official, classic novel.
As most of you know the story, a short recap of the expository details entails dear old Gandalf (Ian McKellen) invites a group of dwarven warriors into Biblo's home in order to irk him out of his cozy Shire existence and to have a "burglar" for Thorin and his dwarven brothers to set in motion their plan of re-claiming their home kingdom from Smaug the dragon. The adventure starts when Bilbo runs to catch up with the departing group, and the classic perilous adventures they take part in are wonderfully, and faithfully at that, rendered cinematically. Trolls, orcs, goblins, the Defiler, and Gollum (in the climactic battle of wits between Bilbo and himself) all make welcome appearances and Andy Serkis nearly steals the show as Gollum, looking and acting as Gollum-y as ever.
Many of the stand-out scenes, to be expected from a Peter Jackson epic, are the scenes that feature WETA-certified special effects-driven action sequences (such as the mountain pass scene) and Howard Shore's ever-present, ever-evocative film score to stir the emotions and sub-conscious. Shore has apparently been working on the score for THE HOBBIT since December 2003 (when RETURN OF THE KING was released in theaters).
Martin Freeman (of Sherlock fame as Watson) absolutely nails his patented combination of endearing awkwardness, dead-pan delivery and intelligence as the younger Bilbo Baggins (the one from the original trilogy is played by Ian Holm of ALIEN and many more films). He and Thorin Oakenshield (played with quality by Richard Armitage), the leader of the nomadic Dwarven fellowship, own the screen whenever they're front and center.
Ian McKellen still delivers as Gandalf, bringing the same mixture of traditional morality and keen wisdom to his beloved character. Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett return as Elrond and Lady Galadriel, Elijah Wood as Frodo and even (fun fact) Benedict Cumberbatch provides his body for the brief, terrifying glimpse at the Necromancer (I wonder who that becomes...).
There is a minor flaw that may probably be improved in the next installment. Many of the dwarves are under-utilized in the development department in favor of the major characters, such as Bilbo and Thorin. Yet as this trilogy continues, much like a TV series, these characters are bound to have more screen-time and developed personalities.
In any case, THE HOBBIT: THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is as good as big-budget filmmaking gets: finely made, acted, with rousing/terrifying action and at times heart-wrenching and warming. The first of three parts in its own trilogy, here's to THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG following up strong and true to J.R.R. Tolkien's official, classic novel.