The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Dec 12, 2012

It's fun, but you can bet your Bilbo, it's long.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Grade: C+
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Fran Walsh, et al. from the J.R.R. Tolkien novel
Cast: Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 166 min.
by John DeSando

Director Peter Jackson has few equals when it comes to special effects, especially the digital kind. This adapted prequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is rampant with the effects as Bilbo Bagins (Martin Freeman), the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and a motley crew of thirteen dwarves (not as cute by far as Snow White’s), under the leadership of Thorin (Richard Armitrage), go searching for the lost dwarf kingdom of Eredor to reclaim it from the dragon Smaug.

It’s an arguably long opening sequence, where Gandalf tries to enlist the happy Bilbo to become a “burglar” to win back the Lonely Mountain, to bring the dwarves home. In this regard Tolkien and Jackson embrace the theme common to many kiddie lit tomes: “There’s no place like home.”

The set pieces are almost always about fighting, be it stone monsters as large as mountains or wolves the size of elephants. Although I didn’t get to see the much heralded 48 frames-per-second digital cinematography (as opposed to the usual 24), I did have 3-D, used to good effect as much detritus is thrown against the screen.

It’s all of one piece, cliff hanging heroes saved by the wit and magic of Gandalf or the heart of Bagins. The appearance of Gollum (Andy Serkis) with the ring that changes things forever merits attention as he and Bilbo match wits over riddles. But then again, Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), the visionary elf queen, provides needed visual relief from the ugly trolls and dwarves.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy deserved to be just that, three installments that were needed to tell the story. For this Hobbit tale, I expect one go at it would be enough. But not for the voracious Peter Jackson, who has much more New Zealand to traverse before he rests his camera.

The Hobbit is long but fun, not great but entertaining.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at
He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel
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