A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on a "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim a their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.
Fans were joyous when Peter Jackson was announced to be returning to Middle Earth after nearly a 10 year break, but their joy was turned to skepticism when it was announced the 300 page childrens book was going to be split into 3 long films. Whether or not the three film idea is a good one remains to be seen, but one things for sure: we should all be happy as we're returning to the cinematic tales of Middle Earth.
It may be shorter than any chapter of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but the film feels overlong, containing many scenes which feel like they could've been cut easily and saved for the extended edition (lord knows what'll be in that). Peter Jackson has definitely overused CG in here, and while it may look brilliant, it makes the threat not feel anywhere as real as the Uruk-hai, the Ringwraiths or the Orcs.
The Riddles in The Dark scene, which boasts the appearance of everyone's favourite Andy Serkis performance, was chilling, utterly perfect and worth any overlong scenes. Almost matching that scene for perfection is the Dwarves engaging in a rendition of Misty Mountains Cold, a song which can easily be called one of 2012's best songs alongside Adele's Skyfall.
|Martin Freeman with the first page of the script|
Martin Freeman may have felt like a leftfield choice to play Bilbo, but he more than proves the right choice has been made. He isn't a hero or a warrior, he's just a Hobbit who wants to go back to his home, and discovers what he's ultimately doing is helping the dwarves he's travelling with reclaim their lost home, and Freeman perfectly encapsulates that into his performance.
Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis and Richard Armitage all give outstanding performances to their roles, but I cannot say much about the other dwarves as they didn't have much screentime to them for me to take notice, and here is where my final problem lies: there are too many characters. I know that's how many dwarves were originally in the novel, but the Fellowship were a lean group with enough screentime devoted to each one of them over the trilogy, and we have yet to see much from the remaining Dwarves. Hopefully Peter Jackson will devote a bit more time to them in the next two films.
While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not as good as any of the chapters from the LOTR trilogy, it's certainly miles better than The Phantom Menace. And that ending definitely makes the wait for Desolation of Smaug a long wait indeed.