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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Released 13 December 2012
Director Peter Jackson

Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott

Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro

Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner, Fran Walsh
Origin United States, New Zealand
Running Time 166 minutes
Genre Adventure, fantasy
Rating 12A

A shire delight.

When The Return of the King won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004, I have to admit my reaction was a little churlish. Sure, the trilogy deserved recognition but Best Picture? Really?? The Lord of the Rings trilogy was unquestionably ambitious filmmaking but my natural resistance to blockbusters questioned its artistic merit. Looking back at it now, of course it deserved the accolade (the competition was hardly strong that year, see: Seabiscuit) and watching The Hobbit, as we near the end of a lacklustre year for cinema I was reminded of how damn entertaining Peter Jackson’s trips to Middle Earth have been. The Hobbit, like its predecessors, is a fantastic piece of cinema - big, beautiful and relentlessly entertaining.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey takes place years before The Lord of the Rings Trilogy when Bilbo Baggins (played with avuncular charm by Martin Freeman) was a young(ish) hobbit. He is enlisted by Gandalf (Ian McKellan) to embark on an adventure - he will join a merry band of dwarves as they attempt to wrest their once great mountain kingdom from the talons of the evil dragon Smaug.

At first meeting, the thirteen dwarves (a menagerie of complicated facial hair and dubious personal hygiene), are a little grating as characters. When they broke into song in Bilbo’s house, I was getting very worried indeed. But as Gandalf remarks to the initially unsure Bilbo, they’re actually quite a likable bunch once you get to know them. We have Richard Armitage and Ken Stott (as the dwarf Prince Thorin and his loyal subject Balin) to thank for this, as they step to the fore of the group and wrangle it into a more sensible submission. Thorin in particular adds dramatic weight to the proceedings and is a compelling character to follow.

As to the visuals, well we have come to expect great things from Jackson and Weta and they don’t disappoint. The world of Middle Earth looks spectacular and the source material gives ample opportunity to create wonderful creatures - giants made from rock, grotesque goblins and terrifying orcs. Set pieces rush through beautifully rendered environments often followed by a swooping camera, creating a genuine sense of excitement that barely flags, even in the film’s quieter moments. For me, the 3D adds nothing but doesn’t detract either.

So, Jackson’s second trilogy bursts out of the traps with irresistible gusto. My only criticism is that it will be another year before we get the next one.

- Linda O’Brien