The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
[Note from the editor: The Agony Booth is currently conducting a search for new article writers. This review was submitted by prospective staff writer Cody. Enjoy!]
As most fans of the series know, The Lord of the Rings began life as a sequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel The Hobbit, but eventually became much more than that. And now that earlier novel is being adapted into a prequel trilogy to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, starting with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Years before Frodo Baggins and his crew embark on an epic journey to return the ring to Mordor, his uncle Bilbo Baggins takes part in a journey of his own.
Long ago, the dwarves who lived in the magic land of Erebor lost their home to the dragon Smaug, a ferocious beast who was attracted by their wealth and one very special diamond held within the Lonely Mountain. Thorin, descendant dwarf king, is now on a quest to get his rightful land back, and he plans on doing so with eleven other dwarf companions.
Bilbo, on the other hand, is a peaceful hobbit. He likes his routine, his clean house, and organized garden. So when the wizard Gandalf shows up and invites him to take part in an adventure, he immediately refuses.
However, the wizard still holds some tricks up his sleeve, and he dupes the Hobbit into hosting a party for the 12 dwarves, with Bilbo eventually agreeing to play the role of “burglar” in the expedition, and signing a contract to that effect.
Their quest isn’t easy, but moments of humor and happiness are intertwined with the darker ones. As opposed to Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is a much lighter tale, mostly due to the musical moments (the dwarves sing several times during the two and a half hours of screen time). This should only follow, considering the source novel was initially written for children.
And so, dwarves, wizard, and hobbit roam the lands together. They’re hunted by orcs and other dangers, especially since the leader of the orcs has been previously wounded by Thorin in a battle, and is now seeking revenge.
First, the group makes a stop in the city of Rivendell to seek the counsel of Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving) in regards to an ancient Elvish map showing a second entrance to the mighty Lonely Mountain, the object of their quest.
As council talks between Gandalf, Elrond, and the master wizard Saruman extend into the early hours of the morning, the dwarves and hobbit take advantage of the situation by leaving unannounced, so that Saruman can’t stop them. Of course, Lady Galadriel can read Gandalf’s thoughts (and there’s sign of a latent romance here), and isn’t taken by surprise.
While on their way through the Misty Mountains, the dwarves are caught by goblins and have to confront the goblin leader. Thankfully, Gandalf arrives just in time and saves them, but finds Bilbo missing. While the dwarves were battling the goblins, Bilbo somehow snuck away, where he ends up meeting Gollum, the creature obsessed with the golden ring (The One Ring from LOTR).
Gollum loses the ring in a fight with an orc, and Bilbo picks it up without knowing what it is. They then have a dueling game of riddles, with the prize being Bilbo’s freedom and Gollum showing him the way out. Bilbo wins, and later he discovers by accident that the ring has the power to make him invisible.
After the near-escape from goblins, the orcs very soon catch up with the party and chase them to the edge of a cliff, where they’re saved by majestic eagles.
The Hobbit has a lot of humor and a lighter touch than the previous films, and we get to meet a few new characters while also catching up with some old LOTR ones. For instance, Frodo makes an appearance at the beginning of the tale, and of course we see Lady Galadriel and Saruman.
Perhaps the funniest new character, aside from the dumb trolls the travelers encounter at one point on their trip, is Ragadast. Ragadast is one of the five wizards, who’s very in touch with nature. He rides a carriage dragged by rabbits, and talks with the birds and creatures of the forest.
Peter Jackson does a great job at giving this film the same feeling of majesty and grandeur as the earlier trilogy, again providing stunning visual effects and great CG animated characters.
Personally, I liked the designs of the orcs and the warcs they ride on the most. Although some areas of the story are a bit predictable and borderline cheesy, like the end scene between the hobbit and the dwarves, overall the movie is a great adaptation of the tale that never drags or bores.
The one common storyline is how Bilbo doesn’t belong to the harsh real world out there, and how he sometimes ends up being a nuisance rather than helpful. Which is, of course, the whole emotional subplot to be explored in the next two movies. It’ll be interesting to see how the upcoming The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug keeps the pace and interest going. So far, we’ve already covered a lot of ground, and a lot of details, and yet we’re only a third of the way through the story.
Martin Freeman, best known for his role as Watson, as well as smaller roles in Closer and Love Actually, does an excellent job in the lead role, capturing both the innocence and reticence of a peaceful soul, as well as the determination and courage that can arise from loyalty. Another great surprise is Richard Armitage, who’s completely unrecognizable in his role as Thorin.
While The Hobbit isn’t as intricate and eventful as its predecessor, it’s still great entertainment. For those of us who have already seen LOTR, this is a nice look back at those films, and for those completely new to the trilogy, The Hobbit is a an exciting film that stands as a worthwhile story its own right.