The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro (screenplay), J.R.R. Tolkien (novel)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage and Andy Serkis
Peter Jackson established himself so well with his take on The Lord of the Rings books that he became indistinguishable from them. After the ill-received mix bag that was 2009’s The Lovely Bones, he has retreated back to J.R.R. Tolkien’s first Middle Earth novel, The Hobbit. Jackson’s storytelling confidence has returned to him in spades here, though drawing out one book into three separate movies that clock in at close to three hours seems like a money grab, especially after viewing this somewhat bloated first installment.
Much like the last film in Lord of the Rings, this first Hobbit segment, called An Unexpected Journey, doesn’t quite know when to end, so it just keeps going. It is full of the scenic New Zealand grandeur and sweeping camera motions that made the earlier movies so visually thrilling, but the tone is much more slapstick. This is because the dwarves, which were largely comic relief in Lord of the Rings, are front and center here, along with the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen). Freeman and McKellen are both excellent, but there are few stoic, serious elves or gritty rangers to balance out the obnoxious dwarves. When contrasted with the brutal fantasy series of HBO’s Game of Thrones, it’s almost child’s play at times.