Writer: Elaine Ewe
Overall: 5.0 Out of 5
Cast: 5.0 Out of 5
Plot: 5.0 Out of 5
Effects: 5.0 Out of 5
Cinematography: 5.0 Out of 5
Watch this if you liked: "The Lord Of The Rings"
Looking back on the year, 2012 is certainly shaping up to be one that film fans are unlikely to forget, with films like "The Dark Knight Rises", "Marvel's The Avengers", "Skyfall" and "Life Of Pi", to name a few. It is safe to say that Bilbo Baggins is not the only person that is surprised by this 'unexpected journey' and that Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a worthy addition to Hollywood's repertoire.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is the first part of Jackson's trilogy, and chronicles the journey of a young Bilbo Baggins, set sixty years before the events of "The Lord Of The Rings". It is on one fine day that the unassuming hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is chosen by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) to accompany 13 dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on a quest across Middle-Earth to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug the dragon.
The quest has never seemed so inviting or breath-taking as it does in Jackson's epic fantasy film that despite the film clocking at over three hours, like Bilbo, we never feel like returning to our reality.
Like its trilogy sequel, "The Lord Of The Rings", this unexpected journey is propelled by an exciting premise: "Bilbo Baggins, I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure...", that unfolds in lyrical phrases and words: "My dear Frodo, you asked me once if I had told you everything there was to know about my adventures. Well, I can honestly say I've told you the truth, I may not have told you all of it..."
Helped along by the dazzling backdrop of Middle-Earth and its Howard Shore soundtrack, Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" turns into a full-blown cinematic spectacle. Fans of "The Lord Of The Rings" will recognize some of the tunes used, while new ones fit the material perfectly.
However, Jackson's vision comes out slightly skewed at times, with the computer-generated imagery (CGI) looking more simulated than usual, especially during the early scenes. This may be due to the 3D feature, which not only enhances clarity and smoothness, but also some of the CGI faults.
Thankfully, they do not interfere with the film as a whole, and "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" boasts all the grandeur, excitement and gritty battles that we have come to expect and then some.
The cinematography and editing are seamlessly done, with scenes like when the dwarves first stumble upon Rivendell and the battle between the Mountain Giants in the storm.
What really impresses, however, are the performances. "Sherlock" star Martin Freeman pulls off a fine balance between whimsy and wit as Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit out of his element among the battle-worn dwarves. There is something all-too human about Freeman's Bilbo, yet at the same time he feels like a hero that we aspire to, when he proves his bravery and intelligence in a battle against the fearsome orcs and in the centrepiece confrontation with Gollum in a game of riddles. The casting of Richard Armitage in the role of Thorin Oakenshield is another master-stroke, who makes for a smaller built Aragorn. Armitage's Thorin may be a brooding, tragic hero who has lost it all, but he exudes a commanding presence, bravery and stubbornness that inspire loyalty among the dwarves and empathy among the viewers. Meanwhile, Ian McKellen's Gandalf the Grey reprises his role with more of the same character that we loved in "The Lord Of The Rings" (Was there anyone who hated Gandalf? Really?), while Andy Serkis provides a show-stealing performance as usual as Gollum.
There are also cameos from characters from "The Lord Of The Rings" such as the older Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), Frodo (Elijah Wood), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), and Saruman the White (Christopher Lee), which brings back a wave of nostalgia.
Of course, the overwhelming number of characters also limits some of the dwarves to miniscule amounts of screen time, but considering that "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is only the first of a trilogy, it is not something that is worth worrying about.
In conclusion, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is the fantasy epic film that has it all: an exciting premise, lovable characters, beautiful visuals and audio. It is everything that one would expect from a Peter Jackson film, and best of all, it builds towards a cliff-hanger ending that has one anticipating for more.
Although this viewing was not in HFR (High Film Rate) 3D, this particular version is in available in Malaysia, and it is highly recommended that you watch this as Peter Jackson intended you to.
Cinema Online, 10 December 2012