The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

Just in time for the holidays, the theatrical adaptation of The Hobbit made its way to theaters on December 14. Filled with outstanding special effects and great acting, the film serves as the latest instance in which Director Peter Jackson has successfully brought the world of Middle Earth to life on the big screen.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is to be the first of three films in the Hobbit trilogy, based on the 300-page novel of the same name, which was the predecessor to Author J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.  This most-recent theatrical adaptation of the work is remarkable in the manner in which it is able to establish a palpable sense of continuity between itself and the earlier films of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a fact largely attributable to its casting.; Assuming the role of the film’s diminutive protagonist, Martin Freeman makes for an exceptional Bilbo Baggins, and bears more than a passing resemblance to Ian Holm, who depicted an elderly version of the character Bilbo in 2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring.  The film also excels from a technically standpoint, using a combination of practical effects, along with state-of-the-art digital animation and photography techniques to create an entirely believable, as well as deeply compelling, Middle Earth, occupied by a number of equally well rendered creatures, by far the most impressive of which being the savage orcs, which serve as one of the film’s central antagonists.

The one criticism that could be levied against this adaptation of the work is the film’s length, which, unlike the films of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is grossly disproportionate to the length of its source material. At a total running time of two hours and forty-five minutes, the film suffers at points from serious issues of pacing, with numerous scenes serving to provide little or nothing in terms of narrative development. Covering roughly a third of the novel on which it is based, the greater portion of the film is comprised meandering exposition, punctuated by a number of admittedly-impressive action set-pieces, as well as the promise of more significant narrative developments, which are to occur in the latter films of the series.

Despite these minor issues of pacing and length, The Hobbit remains faithful to its source material, even elaborating on a number of plot threads and characters only briefly visited upon within the novel. Consequently, what the film lacks in terms of a compelling narrative is more than made up for in terms of character development. A remarkable motion picture, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey stands, alongside this summer’s The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, as one of the most notable films of a year dominated primarily by big-budget blockbusters, and is likely to exacerbate, rather than satiate, the feelings of anticipation felt by fans of the series over the course of the year-long wait for 2013’s follow-up, The Desolation of Smaug.