The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first installment in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, incorporating large chunks of The Simarillion and other Appendices in order to stretch Tolkien’s slenderest novel over three movies. And despite Jackson’s best efforts, this movie does indeed feel stretched. At 2 hours and 49 minutes, An Unexpected Journey spends plenty of time on backstories, flashbacks, an interminable meal at Bag End, and at least three separate endings. My husband put it best when he said, responding to a few teasing glimpses of Smaug, “Only twomore movies until we actually get to see the dragon.”
Though Jackson should have been content with a single sequel, the controversial decision to film in 48 frames per second instead of the standard 24 is not nearly the disaster some fanboys make it out to be. At times, the 48 frames per second is spectacular, allowing for an insane amount of detail in the scenery and costumes so each pebble in the mountain, each chain link in the dwarfs’ armor, is incredibly distinct and dazzling. The introductory sequence in the Mines of Moria literally took my breath away.
However, the extreme definition can at times be too realistic, to the point where you feel like you’re standing on a movie set instead of immersed in a cinematic world. It also results in some inconsistencies in movement, where the action appears sped-up or cartoonish.
Martin Freeman makes an excellent Bilbo Baggins, and Richard Armitage brings a gravity, heroicism, and even sexiness to Thorin that you won’t find in the novel. And at this point Andy Serkis and Ian McEllan could play Gollum and Gandalf in their sleep. Fans of Lord of the Rings may be happy to know that other favored characters will be appearing in the second and third installments, including a part for Legolas specifically written for the movie.
For a gorgeous, fantastical world that drags on too long, Moms on Movies gives The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a B.
Parents Should Know that An Unexpected Journey is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action and violence, plus frightening images. The characters are in continuous mortal peril, and there are many gross and gory villains threatening our heroes with graphic bodily harm. The movies does offer some positive messages about helping friends and finding one’s own inner strength. Moms on Movies would consider it appropriate for children 12 and up, or a little younger if your kids are comfortable with scary monsters.