Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Guest post by Write Group member and movie buff Todd Pearage
The Unexpected Journey turned out to be a better-than-expected movie.
The epic adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the Wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 Dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Sorcerers.
Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the Goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever … Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities — a simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.
Let me begin by respectfully saying that I am not a “Hobbit nerd”. I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings films enough to buy them on Blu-ray and although I haven’t read them, I do own copies of all four books, but that’s where I draw the line. I didn’t count down the days to opening weekend, I didn’t camp outside my local theater and I definitely didn’t dress up as a Hobbit, Elf or wizard to go see the movie. In fact I waited until Saturday afternoon to make my Unexpected Journey.
Secondly, I’d like to focus on just the movie, instead of spending time comparing and contrasting the book and the film. I think we can all agree that very few book-based films live up to their written counterpart, and I’m sure there were elements of this movie that drove the loyal readers of Tolkien’s work crazy; just as there were other aspects that were better than expected.
Either way, let’s talk about the movie.
Generally when discussing a movie we talk about director, cast and story. In my humble opinion, Peter Jackson is a genius. His vision to bring the stories to life is unprecedented. These films needed to be made and Peter Jackson was the perfect director to do it.
The cast, both new and familiar faces, are brilliant. Throughout the film the characters inspire us, make us laugh, and even pull on our heartstrings. And luckily for us, we have some very talented men and women who do just that — flawlessly. It was fun to see Frodo and Bilbo, as well as to be introduced to a whole new company of Dwarfs. But the films highpoint in the fast paced riddle conversation between Bilbo and Gollum … AMAZING!
And finally there’s the story. Although I promised not to compare and contrast the movie to the book, I do need to say one quick thing about the classic story. Penned in 1937, The Hobbit was a children’s story. In fact Peter Jackson said, “The Hobbit is written in a series of chapters that feels almost like they’re designed to be read to your son or daughter at night. It’s got that episodic rip-roaring adventure quality to it.” And I for one thoroughly enjoyed the more lighthearted, child-like fun facet of this movie. But for those expected the darker, more mature tone of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I’m afraid you will be disappointed.
Before wrapping this up, there is an element of the film that doesn’t receive as much credit as it deserves — the setting. The landscape of New Zealand is breathtaking and the panoramic shots are quite frankly some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. I know I am not alone when I say that visiting the beautiful country of New Zealand is on my “bucket list”.
Finally there are the valuable life lessons and teachable moments. This movie covers everything from loyalty and courage to honor and forgiveness. There are numerous conversation starters within the two hours and fifty minutes of screen time and I would encourage you and your students to grab a milkshake after the credits roll and explore these topics further.
I have already made room next to the Lord of the Rings trilogy for a new copy of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Blu-ray. I absolutely loved it.
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Elijah Wood
Directed by Peter Jackson