The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey | Movie Review
Ladies and gentlemen, remove your footwear and join director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Lovely Bones) on another barefoot trek across Middle-earth. It’s been more than a decade since we last visited J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy universe. But before we embark on this new adventure, let me advise you to lower your expectations somewhat. As exciting as it gets, you will soon find out that it’s nowhere near the greatness of its predecessor.
For the benefit of those who have been living under a rock, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (170 minutes, PG13) is the first part of a trilogy adapted from the popular children fantasy novel, The Hobbit, written by the great Tolkien. It is also a prequel to the box-office-smashing and award-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy.
This unexpected journey takes you back 60 years before the gloomy events of Lord of the Rings. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is tricked by wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), into joining a party of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on a quest to reclaim the dwarves’ Lonely Mountain home – and the treasure trapped in it – from a dragon named Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).
The adaptation of novels into movies is often a tricky and difficult task, as it requires a high screenwriting skillset to successfully transform literary text into 24 frames per second… well, in this case, 48 frames per second, since Jackson has adopted the High Frame Rate format for clearer visuals on the silver screen. At the same time, the director and writer must remain faithful to the author’s intentions and retain the essence of the book within the film. Failing to do so, it will be accused by fan-boys for being “another crappy Hollywood mess-up”.
So did Jackson manage to adapt it successfully? Yes, he did. But I can only imagine how difficult it is, especially when he’s adapting a children’s novel into a film targeting more mature audiences. So much so that the film almost has a weird, whimsical ring to it, in contrast with the dark backdrop of Middle-earth. When someone, who hasn’t read the book, walks into the cinema hoping to see choreographed violence with a high body count play out to some dark and heavy themes, he might be disappointed to find An Unexpected Journey much tamer than expected.
However, the film shines in many other ways. The cinematography was shot beautifully on many scenic locations, accompanied by the evocative music of Howard Shore. The combined experience will take your breath away.
With many new characters being introduced here, it’s good to witness powerful performances from actors new to the series. Freeman, who plays Bilbo, is perfectly awkward as the role demands. Jackson has said in an interview that Freeman was his only choice for this role, as he felt that he has the necessary qualities to play the character and, boy, was he right!
Look out for the return of some of the Lord of the Rings characters, such as Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Saruman the White (Christopher Lee). But it’s more than just a nostalgic reunion, as An Unexpected Journey stands on its own as a great start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to the next two parts, The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and There and Back Again (2014). Speaking of fan-boys, I’ll admit to being one myself, since I can’t get enough of the whole Middle-earth saga. Is it too early to start hoping that Jackson will consider adapting other books by Tolkien?
Text by: Lan Hao Yong
*Images from Google Images*
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