After nine long years, fans could not wait to return to Middle Earth and their patience has been rewarded. After the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, director Peter Jackson immediately began plans to bring J.R.R Tolkien's original book in the series: "The Hobbit" to the big screen. The project endured an endless number of pre-production challenges, but fans' patience has been rewarded, as the first film in The Hobbit trilogy: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" was well worth the wait.
The movie is set approximately sixty years prior to the events of "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring". We are introduced to a younger version of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who we learned in the Lord of the Rings trilogy found the "one ring" during an adventure in his youth with a wizard by the name of Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan). Baggins likes his quiet, orderly hobbit life and does not like anything unexpected. However, a visit from Gandalf brings 13 unexpected visitors, 13 dwarves to be exact led by the legendary Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). The dwarves are on a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the clutches of the dragon known as Smaug.
This opening act for The Hobbit trilogy ("The Desolation of Smaug" is due out in 2013 with "There and Back Again" due out in 2014) is a much lighter affair than the original series, which had only moments of light-heartedness during the epic quest. Freeman relies on his experience as a comedian for well-timed laughs throughout the film. His riddle exchange with Gollum (Andy Serkis) at a key point in the film provides not only loads of fun but character depth.
As with "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy the strength of this film is its visual and sound effects. There has been much discussion of the revolutionary idea to shoot the film in 48 frames per second as opposed to the traditional 24 frames per second. The result is magnificent, as Jackson does it again, by pushing the envelope of known filmmaking and giving viewers an amazing experience. The crispness and realism behind the images are breath taking. One will hardly believe they are watching a film as the film process leaves you believing that events are folding live in front of you. The film is a beauty and like its predecessor will hold up well for a number of years to come.
If you are a fan of Jackson's original work, you may find "The Hobbit" a little predictable at times, as Jackson has recreated moments and themes from the first series into this one. This first film in "The Hobbit" series has a familiar pace and can be described as a mirror image of "The Fellowship of the Ring" in many aspects. Fans of Tolkien's work will not be disappointed with the detail and with Jackson's story-telling ability. However, while the original films received a number of accolades including a record-tying 11 Academy Awards for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King", don't expect much love for "The Hobbit" series if it continues to use the same formula as the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. This series will instead find its love in the box office green.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images.