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About the Movie
Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth with the first of three films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's enduring masterpiece. Set in Middle-earth 60 years before the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, the adventure follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of dwarves on a journey into wild, treacherous lands swarming with beasts of every ilk. Although their goal lies to the East, they must first escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever...Gollum. Alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo gains possession of Gollum's "precious" -- a simple, gold ring tied to the fate of all Middle-earth.
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 276
- Fresh: 177
- Rotten: 99
- Average Rating: 6.5/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Fresh: Part One of director Peter Jackson's planned film trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit forces audiences to run an obstacle course before the fun kicks in.
Rotten: An Unexpected Journey is a major comedown, a muddle-headed and cumbersome piece of filmmaking that betrays Jackson's mercenary motives -- Tolkien's book, too.
Fresh: Between its lighter tone and a decade's worth of improvements in digital film techniques, there should be enough of a novelty factor to delight most fans.
Fresh: An overlong adventure enlivened by wonders.
THE JOURNEY HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN...
When I first heard the news that Peter Jackson would finally be expanding upon his immensely popular and critically-acclaimed "Lord of the Rings" saga, I was beyond ecstatic. Having literally grown up with the original cinematic trilogy, I couldn't wait to travel back to Middle-earth once again for a brand new set of adventures long preceding the epic quest led by Frodo. And with "An Unexpected Journey," the thrilling first chapter in the long-awaited "Hobbit" trilogy, Jackson proceeds to do just that. From the very first scene, this film wastes no time in immediately immersing the audience right back into the grand, mythical world of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasies, and the result quickly proves itself to be more of an overwhelming experience than anyone had ever anticipated. Clocking in at a massive three hours and shot in a distracting high frame rate of 48 frames per second (twice the speed of the typical HFR), Jackson's bravely ambitious effort to turn the first six chapters of Tolkien's fantasy novel into an elaborate adventure may not be as well-paced or firmly plotted as the original films, but thanks to its committed cast and awe-inspiring visuals, it's still a joy to watch.
It's 60 years before the events that take place in "LOTR," and young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is enlisted to embark on a grand adventure by Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen, returning in all his bearded glory). They join a group of thirteen dwarves led by the mysterious Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) in a big quest to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. Along the way, our heroes must go to battle with goblins, orcs, trolls, wargs, and other sinister enemies. We also get to bump into some familiar friends and foes, such as Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Saruman (Christopher Lee). Ian Holm (old Bilbo) and Elijah Wood (Frodo) appear briefly as well.
So, let's start with the obvious: While it shares much of the same DNA, "The Hobbit" is no "Lord of the Rings." It's a little softer around the edges and is marked by a much lighter tone and tempo. It's nearly impossible to watch "An Unexpected Journey" without feeling that the entire film is a slightly pale imitation of its brother trilogy, and the return of previous cast members do little to alleviate the sense that this is very much a prequel to the real action. That said, there's still plenty to enjoy. Martin Freeman is perfectly cast as Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit thrown into an adventure against his will. He brilliantly commits to the dialogue and persona of his character in every scene, but perhaps even more impressive than that is his astonishingly believable transformation over the course of this movie from an overly reluctant wimp into a genuinely brave hero. Not only does Bilbo stand as the heart and soul of "An Unexpected Journey," but his plucky attitude and affable honesty are strong enough to persuade us into joining him, Gandalf, and the dwarves on their journey. Due to the run time, the dwarves in this film (with the exception of Thorin) aren't given any sort of development as characters, and the majority of their personalities are much too vague to remember. Hopefully, that small issue will soon be dealt with in the films to come. Ian McKellen, meanwhile, amazingly slips right back into the role of Gandalf as if he never left. But I'd be lying if I didn't say the absolute best performance in the film is that of Gollum, played once again by the brilliantly talented Andy Serkis. His "riddle" scene with Bilbo is by far the movie's most entertaining sequence, and undoubtedly one of the entire franchise's biggest highlights to date. Just watching that ring-obsessive creature go head-to-toe with our hobbit hero in a game of wits was enough to give me goosebumps. And although no other scene in this flick ever comes close to matching the pure brilliance of that one memorable moment, we do get some pretty epic action sequences involving hordes of goblins, orcs, and other menacing creatures. The only major downside to those scenes - despite the flashy, over-stimulating CGI - is that they seem to run on for what feels like thirty minutes at a time, all the while continuously playing the theme of "Misty Mountains" in the background to agonizing effect. Not to say that all of the action in this movie is completely drowned out by a barrage of noisy special effects and repetitive music, but it sure does feel that way after the two-hour mark. Nonetheless, it's the little moments of great acting and inspired gravitas that make our heroes' journey truly worthwhile.
I'll admit, my high hopes for "An Unexpected Journey" didn't quite pay off in the same way that I would've hoped, but that's definitely not to say I was disappointed by the overall experience. Yes, the film does end up suffering from its tonal inconsistencies, unnecessarily drawn-out flashbacks, and severely overlong run time. But at the same time, it also majorly benefits from its impressively assembled cast, consistently engaging narrative, and drastically improved special effects since the last "LOTR" movie. As for the 48 frames per second, let's just hope Jackson doesn't end up using it for "Desolation of Smaug" and "There and Back Again." Despite all its frustrating drawbacks, this is still a solid first entry into a promising new saga. It's indeed a lot to take in (especially during the first hour), but once the film finally hits its visual and emotional high marks, that's when it truly becomes an adventure worth taking. Whether or not you're new to the world of "LOTR," this ambitious first chapter of "The Hobbit" is well worth your time.
Not flawless, but still excellent!
Is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey perfect? Of course not. Neither were any of the LOTR films. But like LOTR, The Hobbit's first installment deeply satisfies and succeeds far more often than it stumbles. I loved virtually every minute of it!
One of the times when the critics got it so wrong
The critics were so wrong about this film. Most had not read the book and most did not do the research to know that this is a film adapted from the book based upon what Tolkien stated after Lord of the Rings was published that he 'wished he had written' to tie closer to LOTR. That is what Jackson has made here. A film truly for the fans in the same vein as LOTR extended editions. Its great!