Following the release of 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – a movie that took me a full decade later to actually sit down and watch (told you I’m slow) – Peter Jackson had seemingly done the impossible: bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s famed series to life on the big screen…and made it amazing. So amazing in fact that I was determined not to let another decade pass before I got to watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
What did I find? More of the same; and I couldn’t be happier for it (you can go here for an in-depth review by our own Nat Almirall). Sure, the length of the movie is every bit as ridiculous as the original trilogy, but if you know that going in there’s really no point in complaining about it. Instead, I focused on what made me love that first offering so much: colorful characters, gorgeous settings and an adventure that could easily stand in as a double for the definition of “epic.”
Many of the same stars and characters make appearances in Hobbit, so there’s practically no chance of unfamiliarity with the viewer…unless this is their first foray into Tolkien’s universe. And unless they have an aversion to fantasy – at which point I’d ask why they’re watching something like this in the first place – they’ll still have a great experience watching a younger Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman in his usual twitchiness) and his new band of brothers come together for the greater good.
Numerous characters make their first appearance in this Rings prequel, and of them I quickly fell in love with Radagast the Brown. I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but as I’m watching I thought “Boy, he really has a McCoy/Doctor vibe going…” Oops. The wizard is actually played by Sylvester McCoy; better known as the Seventh Doctor from Doctor Who. Go figure.
One other thing I noticed that has to be mentioned is Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Gollum. Again, his motion-capture work is unparalleled; but what really struck me was how far the technology has come with the visual effects. There’s a scene where Bilbo and Gollum are negotiating a game, and when Gollum explains his expectations you can actually see the insanity in his eyes. Completely unnerving on a whole new level that still managed to make me smile.
So when the story kicks off and a young Bilbo meets Gandalf the Grey (once again played by Ian McKellan in all his glory), the viewer won’t necessarily consider this the start of an “unexpected” journey; but make no mistake, a journey is definitely what will occur. I am excited, and somewhat anxious, for this wonderful journey to continue.