Thursday Night Movie Club
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
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Release Date: 14 December 2012

Director: Peter Jackson
Ian McKellen
Martin Freeman
Richard Armitage
Ken Stott
Graham McTavish
William Kircher
James Nesbitt
Stephen Hunter
Dean O'Gorman
Aidan Turner
John Callen
Peter Hambleton
Jed Brophy
Mark Hadlow
Adam Brown
Sylvester McCoy
Hugo Weaving
Kate Blanchett
Christopher Lee
Andy Serkis
Gandalf the Gray
Thorin Oakenshield
Bifur / Tom Troll
Gloin / William Troll
Dori / Bert Troll
Radagast the Brown
Saruman the White
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie poster The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie poster The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie poster
Smaug the Dragon attacks in The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyPeter Jackson is back with another epic The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The film is based upon J.R.R. Tolkein's novel The Hobbit and the appendices at the end of The Lord of the Rings.

The novel was written for children so director Peter Jackson has his work cut out making a more serious, adult version. The film expands on the novel by using material from the novel and the appendices at the end of The Lord of the Rings. To the uninitiated, this expanded material may seem like fluff or unnecessary. Fans of the novels will love all of the new material.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a prequel, if you will, to the story of Frodo Baggins and The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins and how he found the One Ring of Power. As with all of Tolkien's works, there is more going on than what appears on the surface.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins finds the One Ring of Power in The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyThe film starts with a fantastic, complex yet succinctly told back story. Nearing his 111th birthday, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) has decided that the time is finally right for him to begin the arduous task of writing his memoirs: how the Dwarves rose to prominance as metal workers and jewelers extraordinaire, how their kingdom was lost in the desolation of the dragon Smaug, how Bilbo helped the Dwarves regain their kingdom, and most importantly, how Bilbo's life changed forever when he found the lost One Ring of Power.

Wizard Gandalf the Gray (Ian McKellan) is uneasy. There are growing signs of evil creeping back into the peaceful Middle-Earth. He believes the time has come for the Dwarves to reclaim their mountain kingdom of Erebor, a huge fortress built inside of The Lonely Mountain. To accomplish this task, Gandalf has enlisted the services of Dwarf King Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Thorin has his own problems. He can only recruit 12 other dwarves to accompany him on his quest. 13 is an unlucky number no matter where or when you live. Gandalf suggests Thorin hire the services of a burglar, none other than Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman).

Nothing comes easily in J.R.R. Tolkien's world. The journey is fraught with dangers: Orcs, Wargs, Trolls, and a Goblin King bent on revenge against Thorin for cutting off his arm. The dwarves are in constant peril. Evil lies just around the next bend. A mere Hobbit, used to the soft life of a warm bed and good food, is out of his element on this journey. Gandalf constantly reminds Thorin that there is more to Bilbo than meets the eye. Bilbo isn't so sure himself, but he begins to rise to the occassion.

The dwarves meet in Bilbo Baggins house in The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyMartin Freeman is excellent as the young Bilbo Baggins. He immerses himself into the character. Simple glances and gestures speak volumes. In a wonderfully funny scene, Bilbo's comfortable life is turned upside down when a lone dwarf arrives at his door. The dwarf is wondering whether the party started. Before the startled Hobbit can figure out what is going on, he inadvertantly and politely allows the dwarf entry into his home. More dwarves continue to arrive and the hapless Bilbo is snookered into inviting them inside. Soon, his house is over run with dwarves who make themselves at home, raiding Bilbo's cabinets for food and drink.

Although this is a complicated story, Freeman is at the center of the film portraying Bilbo. The film rests on his shoulders and Freeman carries the film. He is wonderful to watch. Bilbo is confused why the dwarves want him on their quest. Bilbo makes a quick decision and gleefully joins the quest, without packing a handkerchief, or many other items he may need. Freeman brings out Bilbo's uncertainty, his reluctance, and finally his acceptance that he really has no place with the dwarves as Thorin has openly spoken about. As the film progresses, Freeman shows how the events surrounding Bilbo give him courage that he never dreamed Bilbo a courage that he never dreamed he possessed.

Andy Serkis as Gollum in The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyReturning to the roll of Gollum is the excellent Andy Serkis. Those familiar with the character will love the critical scene between Bilbo and Gollum and the game of "Riddles in the Dark". At one point, Gollum is talking to himself while the very confused Bilbo looks on. "What did you say?", Bilbo asks. "We're not talking to you", is Gollum's reply. This is the funniest line in the film. Serkis is creepy, funny, sad and pathetic. Gollum's anguish and agony is real when he realizes he has lost his precious. Freeman's Bilbo has every chance to end Gollum's misery. Bilbo is conflicted. But he is not a cold-blooded killer. In the end, it is pity that stays Bilbo's hand. (A pity he didn't kill Gollum.)

A Warg in The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyPeter Jackson has once again captured the splendor, magic, mystery, beauty, and the evil of Middle-Earth. The landscapes and creatures are spectacular. The dwarves escape from the Goblin King are a series of long tracking shots with the camera zooming in, around and through the labyrinth of passages and boardwalks. The dwarve's city of Erebor with all its amazing carvings and jewelry is fantastic. With Jackson's effects department, it is always difficult to determine where reality cuts off and the effects begin. The crane shots make it difficult to determine whether the main characters are digitized or the actual actors.

Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown in The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyComic relief in The Hobbit is provided by Sylvester McCoy as the wizard Radagast the Brown. Radagast is an odd wizard who prefers to spend his time with animals in the Eastern forest of Middle Earth rather than associate with Men, Elves and Dwarves. Radagast has his own suspicions about the coming evil. Animals are suddenly dieing. Radagast concludes that there is dark magic at work. McCoy's face is all but obscured by his beard but his facial gestures convey Radagast's oddness, his love for the animals, his concern, his fear. Radagast never appeared in the books so all of his scenes were expanded on by Jackson and his writers.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a long movie. Peter Jackson keeps the pace lively and packs in plenty of surprises along the way. A thunderstorm in the distance turns much more ominous. Jaws will drop during the battle between several Rock Monsters. The film could conceivably end at several key moments, but just keeps rolling along. Enjoy the trip back to Middle-Earth!

When will the extended edition be released?