After years of experiments in the sandbox (King Kong, The Lovely Bones), Peter Jackson is finally back in the classroom and doing what he's proved he's a genius at - turning epic fantasy fiction into epic fantasy films. If 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' is any indication of the two movies to follow in the new JRR Tolkien trilogy, be prepared to be overwhelmed and overawed by the attention to detail, the endearing performances and the state-of-the-art visuals. You'll watch this one with your rear end perched at the edge of the seat, your mouth hanging open slightly and when the credits roll, you'll wonder how time flew - and you might just want to watch it all over again.
What's it about?
Straight up, let us assure you that if you've never read 'The Hobbit', there's little to worry about. Jackson sets the stage for Middle Earth dramarama right from the start and back stories are attended to as lovingly as present-time action. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a Hobbit, is persuaded by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to join Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and twelve other dwarves on their quest to reclaim their lost kingdom, Erebor. The dwarves were forced to leave their homes when a dragon (Smaug) invaded their kingdom and Thorin's been hungry for revenge ever since. Their journey to the Lonely Mountain is filled with encounters with characters from the LOTR saga (Galadriel, Gollum, Saruman) as well as a host of new ones, while the threat of the Dark Lord Sauron lurks in the backdrop of the proceedings.
Martin Freeman is no Elijah Wood, but it hardly matters since Bilbo is no Frodo either. Freeman plays the character in a manner that doesn't immediately make him your favourite, but your empathy for Bilbo grows with every plot turn. Armitage may be playing a dwarf, but every stride he takes in a battle scene will make you feel like he's ten feet tall. The supporting cast (McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee) rise dependably to the task. Every little universe within Middle Earth has been painstakingly etched out, the battle scenes are cliffhanger stuff (one, literally so), but the 3D left us a bit cold; we think we'd have enjoyed it just as much in 2D.
What to do?
For LOTR fans, 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' will be love at first sight all over again. For the rest, what are you waiting for? This movie's an obsession waiting to begin.
in.com rating: 4.5/5
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