He was able to bring The Lord of the Rings to life on the big screen, a feat that had previously been done in animation form. Now Peter Jackson has returned to Middle Earth, creating another trilogy of films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel, The Hobbit.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey starts off with a brief history of how the dwarves were uprooted from their home by a terrible dragon named Smaug. After that, we go to the old version of Bilbo on his 111th birthday, which may help you connect to the original trilogy if you're not already familiar with the books. We then flash back and see Bilbo's first meeting with Gandalf the Grey. After that, the band of 13 dwarves starts to arrive at his door.
While the dwarves are interesting, colorful characters, we only really get to know their leader, Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage. The stern character doesn't possess much humor and is not a fan of having Bilbo join their group as their "burglar." Their quest is to reclaim the dwarves' home from Smaug.
While we get to know plenty about Thorin, Gandalf (again played by Sir Ian McKellen) and Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman), it seems like we barely get an introduction to the rest of the cast of dwarves. It would have been nice to have seen these characters fleshed out more throughout the story, especially considering one book being split up into three movies. The flashes of character we get are great, but there's just not enough.
Another big factor to consider is how it looks. Peter Jackson chose to film his "Hobbit" films in 48 frames per second. This means much crisper detail to what you're seeing. The best way to describe it would be like watching live television, or seeing the movie through a window instead of on a screen. It's a stark contrast to what you're used to on the big screen. This difference is bound to split the audience in a half. On one hand, seeing the characters in front of you, looking like you could touch them is pretty impressive. On the other, when live action characters are mixed with computer generated characters, like the Wargs (wolf-like creatures the evil orcs ride) can be extremely off-putting. It's obvious there's still a lot of ground to cover with 48 fps. While Jackson's new movie is far better than it is worse, if given a little more time before its release, The Hobbit could have been even more visually impressive.
The action is still full throttle as much as it was in Jackson's original Lord of the Rings trilogy. One scene involving fighting rock giants looked amazing. Our band of heroes is trying to climb some mountains, when suddenly a boulder crashed down right above their heads. They soon realize they're standing on one of the monolithic creatures.
The scene between Bilbo and Gollum also felt great. Gollum was easily one of the best parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so seeing how he lost his "precious" (the ring that's the focus of Lord of the Rings) is thrilling. Martin Freeman's Bilbo does a fabulous job conversing with Andy Serkis' always stellar take on the sad, disgusting creature. Serkis once again brings this emotionally challenging character to life with CG graphics and motion capture effects.
All in all, if you enjoyed Jackson's first trilogy, you'll no doubt fall in love with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. While the movie doesn't feel nearly as serious, it's still great to look into the lives of these Middle Earth characters. The film doesn't feel quite as epic, and the new effects can be jarring, overall the film works great and will no doubt lead to even more stellar performances in the next film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
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