Oh lawdy, it's time to go back to Middle Earth. Nine years after the last instalment of The Lord Of The Rings, we are now being treated to the first chapter of The Hobbit, the first of three to be exact.
I know what many people, including myself, were thinking. The Hobbit is a significantly shorter book than the entirety of The Lord Of The Rings, how could they possibly stretch it out into three movies? The obvious answer is to make crap loads of money, but I had faith that Peter Jackson would deliver a nicely paced narrative. An Unexpected Journey is two and a half hours long, a length that we've come to expect based on The Lord Of The Rings, and there wasn't a moment during where I felt bored.
Indeed, there is a nice balance between character building, quieter, trekking scenes and some truly spectacular battles. The quieter moments are definitely helped by the fantastic cast. Martin Freeman fits into the role of Bilbo extremely well, and Ian McKellen is as good as ever as Gandalf. Many others return as well, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis. It's a realt testament to the success of The Lord Of The Rings that everyone was willing to come back almost a decade later. The new characters are pretty awesome too. The band of dwarves, while not particularly fleshed out character wise, have a great sense of camaraderie between them, and their leader, Thorin (Richard Armitage) is especially noteworthy.
So yes, great actors, an evenly placed plot, some touching and funny moments thrown in too, but what we've all come to expect from Jackson is some fantastic battle scenes, and The Hobbit delivers many times. Trolls, orcs, goblins, our gang of dwarves (and a hobbit and wizard) encounter all these and more on their quest, and no effort is spared in making the creatures look amazing. The goblin lair near the end of the movie, especially, blew me away in terms of the detail and magnitude of what was portrayed on screen, and it was all enhanced with both the 3D effects and the higher frame rate at which the movie is displayed. Everything looks a lot smoother, a lot more real, and while my brain struggled to process a couple of scenes, in which everything seemed to be moving a lot faster than it should, I must say that this movie looked amazing.
So there you have it. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a fantastic start to a new trilogy. Spreading a smaller book into three entire movies may seem a bit iffy, but if this instalment is anything to go by, it will allow for greater attention to detail. This movie kept my interest throughout, with fantastic performances, awesome effects and fantastically choreographed battle scenes. I'm certainly looking forward to the rest.
My rating: 5/5