Finally, after nine years of waiting, movie audiences are rewarded with a return to the magical land of Middle-earth to experience the unexpected journey of Bilbo Baggins. Director Peter Jackson’s first installment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” has accomplished not only what he needed to, but much more. The story, always a children’s tale, is jovial compared to the somber-toned Lord of the Rings trilogy and is filled with bumbling trolls and singing dwarves, who can crack quite the bad joke.
Many detractors have complained that the movie does not follow the original storyline page for page, and indeed Jackson has caught some flack for adding characters such as Radagast the Brown, the necromancer, Saruman, and Lady Galadriel. These critics may have lost sight of what the Hobbit trilogy is actually trying to accomplish. The book itself is tiny, and represents just a small portion of the Lord of the Rings backstory. As a result, Jackson has placed more history into the storyline of his film. Through “The Hobbit” trilogy, he is trying to tell the rich history of Middle-earth in full and can be considered a true Tolkien historian. Instead of detracting from the story, it is an honor to the author that the full story is being told.
Jackson also sparked controversy by filming the movie at a higher than usual frame rate. Typical movies are shot at 24 frames per second. In contrast, “An Unexpected Journey” was shot at 48 frames per second in 3-D giving the movie a more “lifelike” quality. The crispness of the picture and the clarity is something that many viewers have likened to watching a video game or HDTV. However, the 48 frames per second movie was only available in select cities and only in 3-D, so it was still easy to view the traditional 24 frames per second version in 2-D.
Overall, the acting was superb. Martin Freeman in his breakout role as young Bilbo Baggins and Richard Armitage as King Thorin Oakenshield complete a fine acting troupe alongside Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis both reprising roles of Gandalf and Gollum. Somewhat intriguing was that this set of actors resembled the School of Mines in that there is only one credited female lead on the cast list; Cate Blanchett performing her reprise role of Lady Galadriel.
In the end, this movie has accomplished much, and even with its 58 score on Metacritic, time will be the official judge. Once the next installments are released, many critics may look back and decide that “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was also an unexpected surprise.