Why The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is Awesome

Middle Earth: it feels so good to be back!”

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of King graced our cinema screens and changed our cinema fans lives forever on 17th December 2003, picking up 11 Academy Awards in the process, and concluded what is undoubtedly my, and many others, favourite film trilogy of all time. You can only imagine, then, my excitement when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was announced, and it truly succeeded in bringing to life a whole new saga in Middle Earth.

An Unexpected Journey opens with the welcoming voice of Ian Holmes as Bilbo Baggins, telling the tale of the mightiest of the Dwarven kingdoms, Erebor, and how its people were forced to flee and its vast riches were taken by a fire drake from the north named Smaug. The Dwarves received no aid from the Elves or anyone else that day and were driven into exile. After the spine tingling prelude, perfectly delivered by Holmes, we find ourselves on the day of Bilbo’s birthday, which I’m sure we all remember being quite the night to remember from The Fellowship of the Ring. This scene provides a nice cameo for Elijah Wood, who reprises his role as Frodo Baggins before he sets off to Eastfarthing Woods to wait for Gandalf, a nice little nod to the opening of The Fellowship of the Ring. As Frodo runs off Bilbo begins to reminisce again, and this is where we get our first glimpse of a younger Bilbo some 60 years previous.

 

Peter Jackson had no one else in mind for Bilbo and halted production until Freeman said yes!

It’s from here that our story gets under way as Bilbo, perfectly brought to life by Martin Freeman, is approached by Gandalf the Grey, who recommends that an adventure would be very good for him - though it’s not until later, when Bag End is overrun by 13 rowdy dwarves, that Bilbo finds out exactly what this adventure will entail. The 13 Dwarves are the company of Thorin Oakenshield, rightful King under the Mountain, who plans to return to Erebor, kill Smaug and reclaim his kingdom. Sounds simple enough when put like that, but as we all know from the LotR trilogy, no Tolkien adventure is short nor easy.

The casting choices for this film are outstanding; none more so than Martin Freeman. Throughout the film you can see how Bilbo is affected by the events that are happening around him and how he changes from the uptight Hobbit worrying about his grandmother’s doilies to the fearless member of Thorin’s company who will do whatever it takes to reclaim Erebor. Richard Armitage plays Thorin Oakenshield, who also shows of a good bit of character development throughout the film; Thorin is stubborn and has a hatred of elves due to their lack of aid when Smaug took Erebor, but also is unconvinced that Bilbo is the burglar they require in their company. His development is much slower than that of Bilbo’s, but is just as greatly portrayed on screen. An honourable mention goes to Manu Bennett – you might know him better as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke in the TV show Arrow - who plays Azog the Defiler. Azog is a pale white orc who vowed to end the line of Durin by killing Thorin, his father Thrain and his grandfather Thror. Even though he is brought to life via motion capture technology, he is still a very sinister looking villain and yet another obstacle for our heroes to overcome on their quest.

 

Many of the female crew members had t-shirts made saying “Azog can defile me anytime”

For me, the best “returning” character to be seen in this film is Gollum. Andy Serkis has brought to life an even more disturbing version of the creature – if that's even possible - who enjoys merrily singing whilst he bashes in a Goblin’s skull, and, of course, we are delighted with his ever present dual personality, brilliantly shown in the changes in his facial expressions. His scene with Bilbo in the goblin tunnels is a very crucial moment in the whole saga, something that was only touched upon in the LotR trilogy: how Bilbo got the ring. One thing this film could’ve fallen prey to would’ve been to emphasize the ring far too much, but thankfully it did not, and it is just a nice little side plot that hasn’t as of yet had any major impact on the overall plot.

 

Isn’t he adorable?

I must also mention the fantastic job Peter Jackson has done once again with the direction of the film, and how it continues to make me want to visit New Zealand. So, with its brilliant casting, epic story, well executed appearances of LotR characters and its incredible visuals, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey successfully whets your appetite for another trilogy in Middle Earth!

Check back tomorrow for Blacksmith’s thoughts on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug!

This has been Adam for The Awesome Update, over and out!

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