The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Are you ready for a return to Middle Earth? If you eagerly answered ‘yes’ to that question, then every review – including this one – is moot. You should see The Hobbit. Chances are, you’ll enjoy the movie and spend countless hours with your fanboy and fangirl friends debating the merits of the story, the scenery, the frame rate, and how it all plays into the entire mythology of the Lord of the Rings universe. If you don’t know a Gollum from a Gandolf – and don’t care – then you can probably skip The Hobbit, the first of a three-part prequel to the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy. Either way, it’ll do just fine at the box office. With or without you.

Now – full confession time: I’ve never seen a single Lord of the Rings movie. Not a one. And I’m not sure I ever will. It’s just not my thing. But after seeing The Hobbit, I can understand and appreciate the franchise’s appeal, especially among those who’ve read J.R.R. Tolkein’s books, on which the epic cinematic tales are based.

Here’s the gist of the plot: A hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is perfectly content in his own little world, until a wizard named Gandolf (Ian McKellen) approaches him out of the blue and tries to recruit him into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from a nasty dragon named Smaug. (Still with me?). Baggins initially balks at joining Gandolf and a quirky band of 13 dwarves led by legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage, who provides the eye candy). But he relents – and adventure ensues! Nearly three hours of a perilous journey that includes one battle after another with Goblins, Orcs, Wargs, Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Along the way, Bilbo encounters a creature (Gollum!) and gains possession of a ‘precious’ ring that empowers Bilbo with a new sense of purpose and courage as he rejoins the others in what looks like a final epic battle to reclaim the kingdom…

But wait! There are two more epic installments, remember?! The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in 2013 and The Hobbit: There and Back Again in 2014. Phew! That gives me plenty of time to figure out who was who among the other characters, including Balin, Dwalin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Nori, Dori, and Ori. Oy! (And no – Oy is not a character. As far as I know).

A lot has been made of director Peter Jackson’s decision to shoot the movie at 48 fps (frames per second), twice the normal frame rate. Personally, it didn’t bother me, make me nauseous, or wow me. So I’ll call it a wash. Same goes with the 3D option. I can take it or leave it. And while I didn’t love the movie, I didn’t hate it either. I enjoyed the gorgeous scenery (New Zealand plays “Middle Earth”), the budding bromances (there are no chicks in this flick, except for one brief appearance by a sorceress), and the humor that helps temper the seemingly endless barrage of bizarre battles. It’s a male-bonding adventure fantasy for the ages. Rated PG-13.

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