Snippet Review: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’



Nine years after Peter Jackson put a wrap on The Lord of the Rings trilogy (LOTR), the acclaimed director returns to Middle-earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I should start by making everyone aware of what a geek I am for this world of wizards, elves, and dwarves: I named the LOTR trilogy as the greatest film of the past decade (2000-2009) – and yes, I consider the three as one, we can debate that another time if you wish. So you can basically knock a half-star or so off this review if you are just a mild fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy as seen through the vision of Peter Jackson and company.


Set 60 years before the LOTR, The Hobbit tells the ambitious tale of Bilbo Baggins, a simple hobbit who aids 13 dwarves – including dwarve prince Thorin Oakenshield – on a quest to reclaim their lost kingdom of Erebor – and the endless amount of gold and fine treasures it contains – from the fearsome dragon Smaug. For those unaware, the source material in Tolkien’s The Hobbit is much simpler and lighter than the doomsday vibe of the LOTR (you absolutely must keep this in mind when comparing the two trilogies). The film looks beautiful – as one who remembers the majestic scope from the previous films might recall – with dazzling special effects and astonishing landscapes, while colorful characters who come in abundance make the film lively and extravagant. The pinnacle achievement of the film, of course, is the game of riddles played between our hero, Bilbo (who Martin Freeman plays to perfection), and the twisted, tortured Gollum creature – once again voiced and performed by Andy Serkis through the use of CGI. However, I have to admit that the pace of the film is a bit tedious and overdrawn, even for such a dedicated enthusiast of Jackson and the work he did on LOTR as I am. And while I feel that a good 30 minutes or so could have been trimmed from the film, it still feels necessary in most spots to lay the backstory behind key characters, and set the table for the epic adventure that will unfold over the next two years. It should come as no surprise that I back this film (as I believe most who adore the LOTR films will) and embrace it as a charming introduction to a tale that will entertain youths for decades to come. I think it sums up how I feel about the film to say that I’m already looking forward to the next one. (***)

  • Gary Swafford

    Thanks for this review, Mark. I’m so looking forward to seeing The Hobbit (though we’re waiting for the crowds to thin out a bit.)

    • Thanks Gary. Looking forward to hearing what you think when you see it!

  • Not admitting to being a LOTR nerd, but back in the late 60s, I started sobbing while reading as Gandalf fell to the Balrog!! Naturally this means that I will be seeing The Hobbit this coming weekend. Having said that I find it a bit money grubbing to know that nine hours of film went to LOTR (three novels) and now another nine hours of film is to be devoted to The Hobbit (much lighter and only one novel). This all may be wonderful, but my adult suspicions say that expected box office may have trumped movie quality.

    • You’re suspicions aren’t far off. I’m sure it would have been better with two films, but there is still enough here to enjoy for anyone who loved LOTR.

  • JamDenTel

    I guess I’m in the minority in saying I found it tremendously overlong, dreadfully slow, and lacking in stakes, character, or passion.

  • steve

    Did you see it in the 48fps/3D? I thought it looked like they made it with a camcorder. Parts of it were terrible to look at. I enjoyed pieces of it, but I agree with JamDen Tel, it was lacking in lots of things.

    • Mark Johnson

      I skipped out on the 3D and 48fps. I might venture that way for the 2nd viewing.

  • GL

    I saw it last night. And I have to say I always had a problem with the longevity of all LOTR films so timing in The Hobbit didn’t bother me as much. What I found the most exciting is how Jackson is not only incorporating The Hobbit but also sideline stories such as the wizard meetings which is only slightly in The Hobbit I think. Also I read somewhere that the next film will focus more on the wizards and their history specially Galindrel who has an awesome battle scene. Overall I did find the effects and overall production design a little cartoony but I think that that was Jackson’s point. The Hobbit is a much lighter read than LOTR. Finally I think what kills this film is the comparisons that you just have to automatically make in regards to LOTR, which is unfair because this film should be able to stand alone.

  • moviewatcher

    I’ve yet to see this movie, but being a proud LOTR nerd, I’m really looking forward to it. But I’m not surprised that the beginning chapter is a bit long. FOTR used to be my favorite LOTR (now it’s ROTK). It still is drop-dead amazing but after recently re watching it I realized that the beginning was clearly big. But “too big”, is something that I cannot agree with. It was a necessary evil to introduce the world. Therefore, I’m not surprised that the opening 45 mins of The Hobbit will be introducing the dwarves and such. The excitement of seeing Middle Earth again will surely take me past that. Then, when the story takes off, especially in the 2nd and 3rd movies, we’ll get better material. For those who haven’t read the book, the last two chapters of it fly by like hell. There are a LOT of plot points that come and go in 20 pages. Therefore, I’m confident we’ll get a nice ending…

    I’m really excited to find out how they shoot the scene of dialog between Bilbo and the dragon. That is perhaps the best dialog in all of Tolkien’s middle-earth writing (I am not kidding). I read it aloud and quickly as you would a Sorkin script and it just came alive. But that’s in the last movie… (the riddles scene definitely gives you a taste of it, though)

    • GL

      I don’t want to spoil much, but the scene between the Dragon and Bilbo will probably be addressed on the last film. A similar moment happens between Bilbo and Gollum as they meet under unusual circumstances.

      • moviewatcher

        I know… that’s what i wrote in the last sentence:
        “But that’s in the last movie… (the riddles scene definitely gives you a taste of it, though)”

  • Roberto Hevia

    I’ve watched this film this afternoon and I can say that is a very good film, but sadly it doesn’t have that magic of the original trilogy. I mean, It has great moments (Like the scene between Gollum and Bilbo or the scene with Elrond, Gandalf, Galadriel and Saruman) but It also has some scenes that should have been cut of the final edition like the TOO long (and boring) scene of the shire at the beginning of the film…
    I give 3 1/2 of 5 stars to the film