Film Review – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Directed by Peter Jackson

Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage

Review by Jordan

In life there are places we can go to feel safe, warm… at home. An old family holiday destination, the beach where you first learned to surf or perhaps your own living room; these locations can conjure nostalgic memories and cause yearning for simpler times. Allow me to add The Shire to this list.

It should be noted that while I appreciate the work of Tolkien and highly regard Peter Jackson’s cinematic vision on The Lord of the Rings, I’m not an Elias (see Clerks 2) type fan. Going into The Hobbit my expectations were quite low, having no real knowledge of the source material and with years having passed since seeing Return of the King; I simply wished to escape into Middle Earth, to experience again the thrill of adventure among a constant threat of Orcs and Goblins, and although on this journey the threat was greatly diminished, I still found myself smiling a smile of relief… as Jack the Giant Slayer also recently proved, fun family adventures still exist.

The quest this time around focusses on Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), as he is thrust into the dangerous task of returning with 13 loyal Dwarfs, led by the king-in-waiting Thorin (Armitage), and Gandalf The Grey (McKellan) to their homeland of Erebor, from which the supposedly dead, legendary dragon Smaug drove them out. Along the way they encounter an underground kingdom of Goblins, some hungry trolls and, in a scene nothing short of spectacular, warring cliffs. There are also many more discoveries and enemies that will become of significance in The Desolation of Smaug  and There and Back Again, and while An Unexpected Journey could have done with a firmer hand in post-production and a hero of more gravitas, I will, much to my own surprise, will be there opening night for each. One gets the impression that this deliberately paced chapter will be appreciated in a fuller manner once this adventure reaches greater heights.

Are there flaws worth mentioning? As with 99% of movies; of course. What bothers me is the character of Gandalf and his use in progressing the story; just as cinematic ghosts can be transparent, opaque, visible, invisible, silent, noisy, clothed in all manner of wardrobe and either unable or able to harm the protagonist depending on the need to either scare or inform an audience, Gandalf’s wizardry abilities can either be spectacular or spectacularly dull depending on pacing and moment-in-time… not to mention he can just disappear on a whim whenever his companions need him. To escape from one life-threatening situation he uses a spell causing hundreds of enemies to knocked unconscious in a single gust, yet confronted with a similar scenario only moments later he is suddenly useless and clambering up a tree (from where he determines is a good idea to light pine cones on fire and use them as projectiles… always a brilliant idea considering wood is one of the most usefully flammable objects on the face of the earth), although in his defence he does then summon some familiar allies as a means to escape (though these could also be used as a means to an end; the same troubled plot-point having been used in The Two Towers). Perhaps I am simply ignorant of a trait in his character? I just wish that he would always be the mighty figure we witnessed on that fateful bridge.

Its undeniable that another issue is in the 13 Dwarfs, with none of them, including leader Thorin, having any real (pardon the pun) stature. James Nesbitt is completely underutilised and Aidan Turner appears as if he’s wandered straight off the set of Middle-Earth’s Next Top Model, then there are others that have such little to do they’re barely worth mentioning it at all.

I digress though, as despite these shortcomings I thoroughly enjoyed this epic tale and, despite not a great deal happening in retrospect, could have easily spent more time with perhaps Radagast the Brown and everybody’s favourite schizophrenic, Gollum. Through his early cult favourites Bad Taste (1987) and Dead Alive (1992), more mature exercises Heavenly Creatures (1994) and King Kong (2005) and of course his renowned Academy Award sweeping Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Peter Jackson has done well to establish himself as one of the most reliable directors in the business; capable of infusing his blockbusters with a homemade-in-New Zealand sensibility and charm.  His legacy is already one of the greats.

A tepid reception and mixed reviews were not exactly what anyone was hoping for with The Hobbit, but despite it not stacking up against the distinguished trilogy it follows (predecessors, really), there is certainly reason enough to let the hair on your feet grow long and jump into this land of fantasy… as Gollum might say: wonderful adventures are a precious thing.

3.5 resuscitated porcupines out of 5

22 responses to “Film Review – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

  1. I mostly agree with your review. Saw this when it came out on DVD. I remember lamenting that it certainly was an “unexpected” journey because it took FOREVER to begin lol Making a 3 hour movie for the sake of consistently making long movies doesn’t make it okay. Thought the movie was good because it got better midway. I think like the original trilogy I’ll enjoy the 2nd and 3rd films more.

  2. I agree with your review. One of my main problems with the film is that it sucked most of the fun out of the book. It’s all a bit too serious and looks like it’s going to be even darker in the sequel

  3. Like you, I enjoyed the chance to return to the Shire, and I do like this film, but it has its flaws. The whole beginning sequence, for example, drags on and is pretty unnecessary. And to split The Hobbit–a book shorter than any one of the LOTR books (I think)–into three movies kind of frustrates me. Also, can I just point out that my favorite thing about this review is the idea of Middle-Earth’s Next Top Model? PLEASE pitch that idea to a TV station.

    • Hi Caragale. Yeah the splitting of a short book into 3 long movies does seem to be what angered people most, and as there is a certain aura of marketing and money-making about it it’s understandable. I think if I watched it again the beginning sequence would frustrate me more.
      Haha, I have a feeling that the Elves might win that contest… poor Hobbits might not have much of a chance.

  4. I kind of liked this movie, but have to whole heartedly agree with all your points about Gandalf’s wizarding abilities 🙂 His tendency not to be around when really required seems more of a plot contrivance than realistic.

    And the wink, wink, nod, nod to other familiar characters such as Frodo, the Elven King (I forget his name) and a few others as well seemed like Jackson trying to milk some more money from his earlier franchise and forcing older viewers to come to see their old favorites.

    The movie itself, considered without these small irritants was quite good I thought. Will I watch the second one in the trilogy? Absolutely.

    • Ha, he loves his little strolls by himself doesn’t he.
      Yes I agree with this point – I did not at all expect to see Frodo, so it was quite bizarre. Also, Christopher Lee looks a little past it – I can’t say it was his best acting performance in this.
      Glad your thoughts are the same.

  5. My reactions were similar to your’s, except reversed. I cherished the small moments of wonder and mythology, but left feeling overwhelmed by mediocrity. And great comments on Gandalf; the mightiest wizard who does practically nothing.

    • Gandalf really is just an old geezer who’d rather chill with Radagast and his animals than fight evil I believe. As stated I think, I was surprised myself by how much I enjoyed it! While still realising its noticeable downfalls.

  6. Great review. Like you and everyone else I was just glad to back in The Shire. For me the main problem with the film is that there was no real sense of peril and this is presumably due to the fact that the source novel is a kids book. The battle with the goblins is amazing but the fact that no one died with all that going down is totally ridiculous.

    My own thoughts are here although I do go on a bit. I guess that is appropriate with this movie:

    • Yeah that is very true. Although even if a supporting character did die it wouldn’t of had much of an emotional impact due to lack of characterisation.

      I enjoyed your thoughts mate – especially the Heavenly Creatures love, ha.
      Cheers, Jordan.

  7. Agreed. The Hobbit isn’t half so good as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and there are loads if flaws, but it’s still a fun film, making it easy to watch.

  8. Pingback: Film Review – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): Jordan’s Take | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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