Film review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

A familiar face turns up in The Hobbit
A familiar face turns up in The Hobbit

Horsham resident Owen Lewis reviews Peter Jackson’s latest blockbuster.

Peter Jackson proves he is still the master of epic story telling in the first installment of his trilogy of Lord of the Rings prequels.

Buried amongst the middle-earth shattering action sequences, extravagant aerial shots and astounding CGI we find the story of homesick hobbit Bilbo (Martin Freemen).

Bilbo reluctantly joins Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a troupe of Dwarves lead by Thorin (Richard Armitage) on a quest to reclaim their ancient Kingdom from gold-hoarding dragon Smaug.

This quest seems almost as impossible as making a trilogy of three hour films from a 330 page book. However, complete with characters and back stories loosely imported from Tolkien’s vast appendices, Jackson manages to immerse us once again into his beautiful, believable world.

The story moves at a brisk pace as the gang encounter trolls, goblins, stone giants and a few familiar faces, all whilst being hunted by Azog the brutish Orc with an ancient score to settle.

Jackson again plumps for a Brit-heavy ensemble cast, and they don’t disappoint. It’s easy to see why he delayed filming for Freeman. His casting is a master-stroke, mirroring his on-screen persona by seeming endearingly out of place as the action swirls around him.

You feel so comfortable in the company of Bilbo and co that you overlook the flabby attempts to link to LOTR and hammy over-acting from Armitage. And so what if the Orc villain was fabricated for padding? Who cares! Look over there! Its a helicopter shot of them running and doesn’t it look fantastic!

New Zealand will always be photogenic so the plaudits must go to Jackson’s Wellington effects house Weta Digital who have executed the visuals to eye popping perfection.

As forerunners in creating otherworldly creatures with cinematic gravitas equal to their fleshy co-stars, Weta didn’t falter when it came to realising the books most memorable chapter.

Everyone’s favourite Tolkien creation returns when Bilbo falls through a crevice into Gollum’s lonesome dwelling. Andy Serkis reprises his role as the vocal and physical essence while Weta do the rest. The enthralling riddle exchange between the two is comfortably the best scene of the film.

Bilbo may have stolen his ring, but the beloved schizophrenic scamp steals the film.

Bring on part two!

Owen Lewis