Eight years after he (deservedly) won an Oscar for his third instalment of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, director Peter Jackson returns to author JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth for what could be considered a prequel – an adaptation of The Hobbit, Tolkien’s first book about hobbits, orcs, dwarves, and of course, a mysterious and powerful ring.
While The Lord Of The Rings volumes were always considered fantasy novels for adults, The Hobbit was more of a children’s book, dealing with young hobbit Bilbo Baggins’ quest to help rid the dwarf kingdom of the dragon Smaug. However, adding back stories and depth from the appendices of the LOTR books, director Jackson has included a great deal of detail – and a few gruesome bits – that make it a children’s story no more. He has also expanded the slim story so that this isn’t the only Hobbit movie, but in fact the first of another trilogy (Part 2 is The Desolation of Smaug, Part 3 is There And Back Again).
Beginning with a prologue featuring the old Bilbo (Ian Holm) and his heir, Frodo (Elijah Wood) – both actors, of course, reprising their roles from The Lord Of The Rings movies – the film then travels back in time to when Bilbo was a young, home-loving hobbit (Freeman), happy to stay amongst his books and possessions until wizard Gandalf (McKellen) and a bunch of rowdy dwarves turn up on his doorstep. They want to reclaim their homeland, led by dwarf Thorin (Richard Armitage), and they need a fleet-footed hobbit to help them. So begins Bilbo’s adventure, which includes encounters with nasty, teeth-gnashing Orcs, sinister-looking goblins (some of the scenes in the goblin caves may remind grown-ups of the horror movie The Descent), and a certain creature named Gollum (Serkis) who has in his possession a very special ring.
As you’d expect, the movie – which has some slow parts but in the main romps along – looks gorgeous, from the Elvin home of Rivendell to the cute hobbit houses of the Shire, while the battle scenes are impressive and the special effects stunning. Jackson has utilised a new way of filming at a much faster speed (48 frames per second) that can be jarring and doesn’t always work – some scenes look like live TV from the 1980s, while some moments where the camera moves across the scenery zip past so fast you feel dizzy – but it does illuminate some of the tremendous detail in the film (you can choose to see the film in a standard version which is advised if you’re prone to motion sickness).
At the centre of all this is Martin Freeman, and he delivers a terrific, warm performance as the homely hobbit surrounded by boisterous dwarves and the enigmatic Gandalf. He, Serkis and Armitage are the stars of this film, and their sometimes humorous, sometimes scary, sometimes exciting adventures in An Unexpected Journey are enjoyable enough to make you want to join them for the two movies that follow.
Is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
As stated in the review above, while this is based on a children’s book, please note that the movie is a 12A certificate and contains some quite scary scenes.
Children over the age of 10 should be fine, but this is more in keeping with The Lord Of The Rings movies than the Hobbit novel. The following scenes are especially scary:
Young children will be frightened by Smaug’s attack on the dwarves’ mountain.
The attack from the Orcs is quite scary, simply because the Orcs themselves are quite nasty-looking.
A later Orc battle could also upset younger viewers, and they may find the white-skinned, battle-scarred leader of the Orcs frightening.
There is also a scene where animals are dying in the forest and wizard Radagast The Brown tries to help a dying hedgehog. The camera closes in on the face of the hedgehog as it dies which may upset younger children (he does bring it back to life soon after).
Some children may be scared by the scenes featuring Gollum.
If you like this, why not try: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Clash Of The Titans 2010, Dragonheart,