Peter Jackson’s LotR trilogy has always been a love it or hate it affair, effortlessly drawing in those mesmerized by its technical aspects and Tolkien’s dense storytelling while alienating those who’ve dismissed it as one dreadfully drawn out, heavily lore-centric slog. Regardless of where your personal allegiance lies, these initial adaptations have set the bar for imitators through Jackson’s loving attention to detail and determination to give Tolkien’s avid admirers something to write home about. This in mind, pre-release buzz ran rampant when plans for The Hobbit were announced, especially when Jackson agreed to return to helm said prequel while subsequently turning it into yet another trilogy of films. Unnecessary as the decision may be, this first installment – An Unexpected Journey – carries with it enough base-level entertainment value to be considered a worthwhile return to Middle Earth.
Lauding The Hobbit for its more obvious merits is inevitable, the film being showcased via its never-before-seen HFR (high framerate) 3D presentation that does wonders for countless lavish set pieces and stunning New Zealand locales. Like watching a Blu-ray for the first time in full high definition, your eyes will take a minute to adjust, but once they do, Peter Jackson’s beautifully realized vision of yet another one of Tolkien’s prized works becomes almost overbearingly more likable then a bulk of the titular Bilbo’s life-altering if familiar sojourn.
Like I said, the production as a whole carries with it an inherent sense of fantastical whimsy that’s likable for pure entertainment’s sake, coupling a copious bunch of Dwarf-heavy humor and wit with the series’ signature epicness in relation to both bloodbaths and backstory. Given the aforementioned decision to divide the source novel up into episodes, Jackson’s trademark deliberate pacing is more omnipresent than ever; something that undeniably detracts from The Hobbit‘s overall appeal as certain events are unceremoniously dragged out and beaten to death over a three-hour timespan. Needless to say, some of these happenings deserve the meticulous attention to detail whereas others certainly do not.
As a whole, An Unexpected Journey has just enough of what Tolkien fanatics are looking for while still missing the mark in several respects. It’s thematically redundant, somewhat emotionally vapid despite the plight of the Dwarves at its core and lacking in terms of cohesiveness, priding itself on telling Bilbo’s story in prolonged succeeding chunks rather than segueing seamlessly from bit to bit. It looks great of course, employing a new gimmick to draw its dedicated audience to theaters to admire the awe-inspiring visuals that have become a staple within the Lord of the Rings‘ cinematic legacy. In other words, take The Hobbit at face value and you’ll assuredly avoid disappointment.