The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Review

Shall we step back in the Middle-Earth?

Oh yes, I think we shall.

General Information

Directed by Peter Jackson

 Full Cast and Crew


The Premise

Bilbo Baggins is swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever … Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities.

High Points

  • The Dwarves rock. God save me from the elves and give me more dwarves. They are funny, dynamic, and kick-ass in turns.
  • Gandalf explaining to Galadriel why Bilbo is on the quest. Maybe my emotions were raw from the events in Connecticut  but his words hit home, hard.
  • Gollum is scary in his life-like animation. The detail in the face and the eyes (down to individual veins in the bloodshot whites) is startling. Then add in the masterful performance by Serkis and it’s art.

Low Points

There are pacing problems, as many people feared, but they aren’t film killing moments (see Star Trek: The Motion Picture for the gold standard on bad pacing). The film has been padded in places. Sometimes it works, other times, not as much. To point to a specific problem, it would be (as others have mentioned) Radaghast the Brown. Most of his scenes are pretty obviously padding to make the film longer, but at no point do they come close (again, as others have mentioned) to Jar Jar Binksian in annoyance.


Originality: It’s an adaptation of a old, well-read book. And it’s not the first attempt at a film version. It is, however, the best by far. 3/6

Story: Had I known I was going to be doing the review, I would have reread the book. As it is, nothing jumps out as “not belonging.” Again, there are some additions (from supplimental material) that don’t really add anything. There is a lot more mention and dwelling on “the dark power rising,” though it gives a bit more of a rationale for why Gandalf’s along for the ride. 4/6

Effects: WETA does another magnificent job with both frenetic action (escaping from the orcs under the mountain) to the subtle (Gollum). 6/6

Emotional Response: There was this nagging thought in my mind through most of the first hour. Why am I not excited about this? I remember being positively giddy for Fellowship of the Rings, but not so here. Somewhere around Rivendell it hit me. We’ve been here before, we know this place. It’s not excitement, it’s the warmth of remembrance that suffuses much of the film (at least for me). This is a place we know and love and we want to be here. We had a great time the last time we were here and expect more of the same. And we get it. 6/6

Production: Peter Jackson + WETA + Tolkien. What do you expect? Gorgeous detail in the costumes, make-up, and sets. 6/6

Acting: The dwarves are great from top to bottom. The returning cast is clearly enjoying themselves, with nods to McKellen and Serkis in particular. But it’s Martin Freeman that steals the show. He owns the role and infuses Bilbo with the right amount of hesitation and courage. 6/6

Overall: It’s not the squee-inducing ride that LotR was (thus far) but it’s Middle-Earth in capable, loving hands. You won’t be disappointed. 6/6

Total: 37/42


I saw the 2D, regular format, 24 fps version. I loathe 3D, but I am curious to see the 48 fps treatment (in 2D and 3D). Just not enough to shell out the extra cash for the experience. I’m hoping the premium Blu-Ray will have both so I can compare and contrast the difference. If anyone out there experienced the higher frame rate, please feel free to chime in.

12 replies on “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Review”

  1. I want to see it, but part of me is holding back because it’s quite obviously “The Hobbit: The Unexpected Moneygrab, Part 1 of 3”.

    I could see two films. Three seems to be excessive. But he has to pay off the 48fps gear somehow I suppose…

  2. I’m re-reading the book right now and I am, in fact, quite surprised at the number of references to “a dark power” – in particular “the necromancer”, and various things that are, when you understand that they’re foreshadowing, fairly impressive.

    it’s still pretty clear that tolkien didn’t have EVERYTHING planned out, but it’s impressive what groundwork he did lay.

    this is one of those cases where “tolkien was intending to write legends, not build a world” works out, because everything doesn’t have to line up. mythology is messy.

    • He also rewrote The Hobbit a little for later editions, because he had a better idea of what was coming. This worked out far better than when Lucas attempted something similar.

      Yeah…. Pacing and padding and tone-shifts, o my! It’s not so much the mix of “sophisticated kids’ book” and “epic”– which derives from the source material– but rather the additions of “cartoony action movie” that really annoyed me. I’ll take Radaghast over the Indiana Jones-style fall that should have killed everyone, among other such moments.

      Still, excellent scenes with Gollum, and worthwhile overall, if in need of significant editing.

  3. By far my favorite scene(s) was with the Dwarves coming together at Bilbo’s home. The party, the planning and the singing.

    They did not over do the singing, but when the Dwarves started, I got shivers.

  4. Saw it myself in 3D 48fps. I would have preferred 2D, but wanted 48fps, and it was the only game in town. That said, the 3d was excellent for the most part, and never jarring.

    As to the 48fps, I really loved it, with one caveat. If they are going to shoot in such a clear, crisp format, they need to up the budget on the sets and props. The natural landscapes were breathtaking. The Last Homely House was disappointing. The swords were beautiful. The Dwarves’ other weapons appeared to be cardboard at times.

    Putting the format aside, I was not disappointed by most of the added story. Radaghast was not the best addition, but he fit into the story eventually (Not having read the Silmarillion, I can’t say how much this is original). I noticed a few other changes to the story which puzzled or annoyed me. The three trolls were dealt with similarly to the books, but Gandalf’s ventriloquism was lost. Not a big deal really. The major issue I had here was in the final battle scene. In the book, Bilbo became respected by sneaking past several Dwarven guards (using the Ring), and appearing in the middle of camp. As a burglar, this made sense. Instead, here he steps from behind a tree, as if he were merely following all the while. And the acts that bring Thorin to praise him were not only not in the book, but not really within Bilbo’s character, really.

    Still, I’ll agree that, so far, this is the best adaptation of the book made.

    • I don’t remember Radaghast having much (if any) role in the Simmilarion. His character seemed fine, and there’s aspects that come into play later, but the whole sequence felt like too much of a random diversion from the main plot. A lot of the movie was like that for me, the lead up to the party was great as we met the characters and got to understand Bilbo’s reluctance to go, but after that the extended action sequences just seemed to dull the emotions, and they went on too long to have any real tension.

      The film and quest also seemed to be lacking any real purpose, we don’t really get a good idea of where they are so the appearance of elves, mountains, or goblins feels really random, and we don’t get a feeling of progress, just randomly changing scenery. As for the fights I think this article summarizes a lot of my feelings, those extended fight sequences just bore me.

      I think it was a decent film, but it could have been a lot better if it tried to be more than an action flick.

      As for the 3D I thought it was pretty subtle and well done, the only thing that bugged me is that while the set looked very 3D the background scenery tended to look very flat and painted. I’m not sure if this is an intrinsic issue with the tech or just with the focus not being sharp enough, but it made it more difficult to feel like those grand settings were real.

  5. One of the things that struck me about this movie was that it took a children’s book full of humor and wonder and somehow managed to keep that tone. It was not as dark as LOTR, but it was fulfilling.

    I believe PJ, at least with this first movie, seems hopeful to actually elevate the source material into something more.

    I liked this movie better than I liked the adaptation of the Two Towers, which for me is still a problem. I’ll never understand the changes they made to plot and character positioning. This movie followed the plot, and added enough detail to the story to tie it in with the LOTR trilogy, without being nightmare-inducing for small children. It was Middle Earth Light, still magical, but the corners weren’t as dark and scary. :)

    Granted, this film is longish, but the pacing was well done enough that I kept glancing at my watch only to be surprised at how rapidly the time was passing.

    And Radagast was NOT Jar Jar. Seeing a familiar Doctor’s wisened old face was pleasant, and even though he was scatterbrained, and more than a bit daft, many children, and several adults were thrilled by him. The chase scene with Radagast distracting the baddies with his Racing Rabbits reminded me of the scene from Ice Age with the Sqrat chasing his acorn through the ice tunnels as the other three protagonists were sliding through the same tunnels trying to survive. It was more of a romp than any real peril, but who knows what will happen to the Brown One.

    I loved Gandalf’s reference to the two blue wizards — “I can’t remember their names.” Because Tolkien never gave them names as I recall, he just mentioned them in passing. :)

    I too saw the film in 2-d 24fps, and found it to be clear. To those who saw it in 48fps, I heard from some reviews that the color was garish. Did you notice anything unusual about the colors or the clarity revealing poor makeup?

    • A friend of mine and his wife saw it in 48fps. He said it looked great, but his wife complained of motion sickness like feelings in the begining. She said it passed as the movie went on.

    • I didn’t notice any issues with makeup. I have mentioned my issues with props/sets, though. It was not jarring, but noticeable. Most apparent were the statues at the entrance to the hidden valley, which were quite obviously not stone, and the various Dwarves’ weapons, which were quite obviously not metal. For much of the film, the CGI (Orcs, Wargs, etc) looked better than the physical props/sets. Neither was indistinguishable from the actual actors or locations, but the CGI looked better.

  6. Even in 24fps those statues looked nebulous, almost. Ghostlike. I noticed one scene early on where a rock fractured into clear trapezoidal shapes. That was the biggest error I spotted, I think for this series of films WETA did all of the CGI in-house. I didn’t stay for the credits.

    I will on Thursday, going to see it again with my niece. :)

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