The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

Stepping out your front door can be a dangerous business these days, especially if, like me, you have a fondness for fair-weather footwear during this frozen time of year.

But if you’re leaving your house to catch Peter Jackson’s latest adaptation of a J R R Tolkien classic, it might just be worth the risk.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey begins in much the same way as Lord Of The Rings, keeping up with the Baggins’ in Bag End; only this isn’t the tale of Frodo Baggins fantastical adventures.

Tis the eve of Bilbo Baggins’ 111th birthday and, in between hiding anything of value from his thieving relatives and waiting for the celebrations to begin, Bilbo’s been finishing off writing down the story of an unexpected journey he went on some sixty years earlier.

And then we go back sixty years, where we find a younger looking Bilbo smoking his pipe and looking out upon the rolling green lands of The Shire, until a vaguely familiar looking stranger walks his way.

Though they haven’t met since Bilbo was knee to whatever the equivalent of a grasshopper is to hobbits, Gandalf The Grey quickly reminds this Baggins of the surprisingly ageless features of everyone’s favourite wizard.

Well, except in Hobbiton perhaps.

As always seems to be the way of Gandalf The Grey, he has an ulterior motive stashed up his magical sleeve.

When an increasingly large troupe of dwarves show up uninvited on Bilbo’s doorstep, Gandalf’s true motives become clear; he intends to help this merry band of mini men reclaim their lost kingdom of Erebor from the grip of a mighty dragon called Smaug.

And he needs Bilbo’s help along the way.

It’s not really in a hobbit’s nature to go on adventures, but then Bilbo Baggins is no ordinary hobbit.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first of Peter Jackson’s new Tolkien trilogy and, in a year where big films have mostly failed to seep people off their feet, there’s something very comforting about the idea of returning to Middle Earth.

But is it worth stepping outside your front door for?

Well, yes and no.

Ten years on from Jackson’s ground-breaking Lord Of The Rings trilogy, The Hobbit looks better than ever.

Mostly.

CGI today is even better than before, particularly when the fantastic Mr Gollum is introduced to proceedings.

But the now infamous 48 frames per second format the Kiwi director is trying to champion with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey needs some tweaking.

As great as all the big action sequences we’ve come to expect from Jackson’s epic incarnation of Middle Earth are, some of the hum-drum, everyday moments look as though they’ve been slightly sped up, like when you scan through a blu-ray at home.

Other discs are available.

The other flaw is, well, not really a flaw at all, it’s just The Hobbit was written with children in mind so the story is inevitably less engaging than Lord Of The Rings.

Which is doubtless the reason why Jackson adapted Tolkien’s second great literary work in the first place.

So if you’re expecting something as good as Lord Of The Rings, you’re going to be disappointed.

If, on the other hand, you’ve already accepted that The Hobbit isn’t as great a story in either scale or execution as Lord Of The Rings, then you’ll most definitely enjoy this spectacular new addition to the stories of Middle Earth.

And while it may not be as good a story, the creatures you’ll come across in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey are more fantastical, the special effects more mind blowing and there’s more fun to be had too; usually when someone you’re already familiar with is introduced to proceedings.

There’s the peerless Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Cate Blanchett returns as Galadriel looking smoother than ever and the brilliant Andy Serkis reprises his role as Gollum; but the one person everyone’s most interested in is Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins the younger.

Whilst Freeman may not be many people’s idea of a perfect actor, he is perfectly suited to play the role of Bilbo, an unassuming, ordinary Halfling who’s the vessel that anyone can identify with.

Now, there may not be much that can drag me out of my front door on days like this, but The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is one of them.

Jonathan Campbell

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