Movie Review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

the-hobbit-movie-poster[1]

As a brand-new Middle-earth fan, I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with my brother and a friend on opening day, December 14th. I was in a state of nerdy anticipation all day. Was it what I’d hoped it would be?

Here’s a summary of the story, adapted from the one I wrote for my review of the book:

“Bilbo Baggins of Bag End enjoys his quiet life in the Shire. He has vaguely thought about adventures, but doesn’t really expect to have any. One day the wizard Gandalf visits him along with thirteen dwarves: Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, and Thorin Oakenshield. Gandalf thinks that Bilbo would be a good addition to their expedition of defeating the terrible dragon Smaug and taking his treasure. Bilbo isn’t so sure but ends up traveling with them anyway. Along the way he encounters trolls, elves, goblins known as Orcs, huge eagles, wolves known as Wargs, and a slimy creature known as Gollum. He journeys through the Misty Mountains, attempts to be a pickpocket, stays at Rivendell the Last Homely House, and finds a ring.”

Obviously, more happens in the original book. The movie is only the first of three to be made out of a three-hundred-page book, so the stuff above is what happened in this film. But although The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey covers only a hundred pages of the novel, it’s not short. It’s ten minutes short of three hours long. Obviously, there’s a lot of stuff in such a long film. But it’s hard for me to decide what I think about the movie, because some of the length is taken up with good things and some with things that make me go, “What the Gollum?!”

Let’s start with the good.

The visuals were amazing. I have a great imagination, but loved seeing someone else’s take on the landscape of Middle-earth. I loved seeing old places, like Rivendell, as well as the new places like Erebor. God, Erebor was fantastic. It was much prettier and larger than I’d ever imagined it. The very, very little we saw of Smaug looked cool too.

hobbit-dwarves-poster[1]Speaking of visuals, I thought that seeing the dwarves in the movie might help me to tell them apart. When I read the book, all the dwarves started to look pretty much the same in my mind. I mean, there are thirteen of them! To be honest, I knew all their names but could only match four of those names to faces… which is what happened during the movie. I knew who Thorin, Fili, Kili, and Bombur were. I could tell the others apart by sight, like the old one and the one with a weird furry hat, but I didn’t know their names. I will add, though, that I don’t think it really affects your understanding of the plot if you can’t tell them apart. This handy-dandy flowchart allows you to tell the dwarves apart by their beards! And to whomever designed that poster: it is perfect. Thank you.

As we’re on the subject of dwarves, I’m going to be shallow now and say that one was very hot. kili-hobbit-poster-570x844[1]I’m not usually this way, although I did gush about Legolas and Aragorn when I reviewed The Fellowship of the Ring film. Funny how such an intelligent story can make me so shallow. Anyway, I liked Kili (and Fili) in the original book because as the youngest dwarves of the group, they were usually the ones getting in trouble or just doing stuff that was actually interesting. But in the movie, Kili is even better. He’s hot. So long, Aragorn and Legolas! On the Internet I’ve seen things like, “While everyone was fangirling about Legolas, the dwarves were thinking, ‘We’ve got this…'”, “The Hobbit: And Some Unexpectedly Hot Dwarves“, and “#dwarvenlegolas”. Look at him! Amazing eyes, amazing hair, amazing face in general, and he’s not five hundred billion pounds like Bombur! What more could you want? Well, he does have a brother, Fili… whom I think is OK, but not as great. It’ll be interesting to see people’s reactions after the final Hobbit movies because Fili and Kili die in the Battle of the Five Armies, along with the leader of their group, Thorin Oakenshield, who’s not too bad-looking either. People who haven’t read the books might be surprised that all the “hot ones” die.

Let’s move on to another amazing visual. In the book, Riddles In The Dark is where I fell in love with Gollum – with his character, that is. I don’t want to snog him; the very idea makes me queasy. But I love his character – his backstory, what the Ring has done to him, the fact that originally, he was a hobbit just like Frodo and Bilbo. I feel so sorry for him and the film did this scene perfectly. I was delighted that nearly every riddle from the book was included. I also liked how they depicted Gollum’s humanity (or hobbitity) by showing him crying after Bilbo steals the Ring, “the only thing he ever cared for, his precious.” Riddles In The Dark was perfect. I think I was also impressed because I haven’t seen Gollum in the films before; I’ve only watched The Fellowship of the Ring where all you see are Gollum’s eyes peering at Frodo and Gandalf.

In the original book, there aren’t any women with speaking roles, so the elf Galadriel from Lord of the Rings was added. I didn’t really mind because she’s my favorite character after Gollum. I like how she was shown along with Elrond, Gandalf, and Saruman, discussing the dwarves’ plan. Yes, Saruman is in the film. I didn’t expect that. Anyway, Galadriel is one of the most powerful people in Middle-earth so it makes sense that she was there, and yet I’m not sure that there was much point. She said a few inspiring lines and then walked hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-7-600x421[1]around the perimeter of the room looking serene. However, it looked a bit ridiculous because she said so little that she might as well have not been there. Therefore, I spent the rest of the scene paying attention to Elrond, wondering if he ever changes his hairdo and why his clothes all look like pajamas. Seriously, dude. You’re the Lord of Rivendell and you can’t be bothered to put on nice clothes when you have visitors?

The music was awesome. Howard Shore, the composer, is amazing. His main theme for the Hobbit movies is majestic and reminiscent of the stuff from the trilogies, but more dwarven instead of elvin/hobbity, obviously. It incorporates some of the existing Lord of the Rings music, too. Furthermore, it has the same tune as the dwarves’ song Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold! I know that’s a nerdy thing to be excited about, but that really is a cool achievement because it ties back to the book with its songs galore. Speaking of songs, there were only two from the book: the aforementioned one and Blunt the Knives which was funny and surprising because I hadn’t thought it would be included.

But my favorite piece was Song of the Lonely Mountain by Neil Finn. It’s a slight adaptation of Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold and plays at the very end, during the credits. I’d found it towards the end of NaNoWriMo and listened to it so much that I have every word memorized. I didn’t want to leave the theater until it had finished playing, but my brother was all like, “Come on, let’s go.” so sadly I didn’t get to hear all of it. I don’t deny that it might very well be a nerd thing that only Tolkien geeks can fully appreciate. You might listen to it and think, “Yeah? So?” but if you’ve read the book and care about the characters, it means a lot. It’s about revenge and the dwarves urging their kin to take action, already: “We lay under the Misty Mountains cold / In slumbers deep, and dreams of gold / We must awake, our lives to make…” The dwarves need to stop wishing they lived when days were better (looking at Gimli, this seems to be a huge problem even years later in the trilogy) and do something about Smaug. I love this idea because it makes the events of The Hobbit feel just as urgent as destroying the Ring in Lord of the Rings. I think a lot of people think of The Hobbit as a silly children’s book, but its events are important too, because they lay the groundwork for the trilogy.

The acting was good, too. Martin Freeman – not Morgan Freeman, as I first thought – as Bilbo was perfect. He was just so hobbity. He did a stupendous job showing how Bilbo The-Hobbit-Thorin-Oakenshield-300x292[1]gradually becomes more sure of himself. He was alternately brave, scared, and funny. And he looks just right for the part, too. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) was great too, much better than either Richard Harris or Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. He was both stern and funny. Other than that, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) was good as the leaders of the dwarves; he was a good mix of forbidding and determined yet worried. Andy Serkis as the voice of Gollum was also wonderful.

Was the story/plot true to the books? I thought it was, very much so. The movie begins where The Fellowship of the Ring film began, just before Bilbo’s birthday party. He starts to reminiscence about his adventures, leading into the story proper. I think the movie did a good job of explaining things like the dwarves’ quest for Erebor. Lauren, my friend who was with me, didn’t seem to have any trouble understanding what was going on, and she said she’d read the book a long time ago so she didn’t remember anything. Huge chunks of the dialogue appear exactly as they are in the book, which was cool. The film ended as the Eagles saved the company from the Orcs and deposit them on a huge bear-shaped rock. This makes me happy because it means Beorn the part-bear guy is next and he’s awesome!

That does, however, mean that Legolas isn’t in this movie because he’s from Mirkwood and the company gets to Mirkwood after they meet Beorn. I didn’t think it was likely they’d get to Mirkwood in the first film but I hoped they would anyway because Legolas is hot. Ha. So if CharleyR is reading this, he’s not in the background dancing to Gangnam Style but maybe he will in the next one! If you’re not CharleyR, – we’re quite insane, but don’t worry.

And now for the not-quite-so-good. I don’t think there was anything downright bad in the film. It’s just that if I were Peter Jackson, the director, I would have done things a little bit differently.the-hobbit-movie-image-bilbo-food-01[1]

In the book, the conflict was dwarves versus Smaug the dragon. In the movie that’s still true, but because there will be three films and the defeat of Smaug takes place at the end, a conflict with Orcs was also added. In the book the dwarves have problems with Orcs, but not nearly as often. It got a bit old after a while. I kept thinking, “We know they don’t like the Orcs! Now, can we spend more time on the traveling scenes and/or looking at Kili’s face?!” One reason I thought the book was so cool was that I couldn’t see how they were going to defeat the huge Smaug. As it turned out, they did that easily and the tricky part was getting there in the first place but anyway, I don’t like the whole Orcs subplot.

Similarly, I’m not entirely sure what other stuff Peter Jackson stuck in there because he pulled material from the Appendices and I’ve only skimmed those. Maybe there really are stone giants living in the mountains of Middle-earth who fight with each other like they did in the film. But who can tell? If they were made up for the movie, then I’m not too happy about that. However, I don’t feel like I can really criticize everything that was added unless it’s obvious (like Galadriel) because it might actually be part of Tolkien’s world.

My biggest issue with the film is Radagast the Brown, a wizard just like Gandalf. He’s hardly mentioned in the book but he has a minor role in the film, alerting Gandalf about the Necromancer. I imagined Radagast as Gandalf but in brown robes since he’s “the Brown”, after all. I thought he was serious, intelligent, and brave, yet with a quiet sense of humor. Instead, he’s comic relief. He’s a rather foolish guy with bird poop on his head. Lauren, my friend who saw the movie with me, commented that “Wow, Lord of the Rings is even nerdier than Harry Potter.” Yes, it is, and Peter Jackson is the one of the nerdiest of the reg_1024.radagast.mh.121212[1]nerdy, so his films are incredibly accurate to the books. (Apparently. I’ve only seen the first one, but I thought it was pretty close.) Radagast’s portrayal just didn’t seem like something Tolkien would have intended so it felt like this film wasn’t as nerdy as the others.

I saw the movie in 2-D, but it also came out in a special kind of 3-D. It was shot in high film rate, at 48 frames per second instead of 24 as 3-D is usually shot in. Apparently that makes the images less blurry and more “real”. It seems that people can’t agree on this – some reviewers loved it and some said it was cheesy. I wouldn’t know (although I would love to see the movie in high film rate, just to form my own opinion) but I’m just explaining that it’s a big part of the hype and I can’t judge it. I will say, though, that some scenes, especially in Erebor towards the beginning, were quite blurry and I wondered if 3-D would have made it better.

I’m not certain if this was cleared up in the books or not, but the Necromancer of the book/movie is supposed to be Sauron; the point of the meeting with Galadriel and everyone else was to discuss whether or not he was Sauron. Appararently people (who hadn’t read The Hobbit)  weren’t sure about this. To me, it seemed obvious while I was reading it even though I hadn’t read the trilogy. Just saying.

I had a little niggling thought that wouldn’t go away throughout the movie: I’m very biased about this, aren’t I? How is it that I’m biased? Well, I’d finished reading The Return of the King that very day and it is an awesome story. The Hobbit is awesome, but not quite in the same way. Still, I kept comparing the two. Also, I’m a little prejudiced because I feel like I need to see all the Hobbit movies before I decide if they do a good job telling the entire story. Of course, that’s not possible since the last one doesn’t even come out until July Hobbit-8[1]2014!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has generally been getting OK reviews. I think it was a pretty good movie – but I’m not just saying that to be loyal. Trust me, I love the Harry Potter books, but I will be the first person to tell you that with the exception of Deathly Hallows Part I, they’re awful. I’m picky about film-to-book adaptations. But I think this film was pretty good. I would have done a few things differently, but it’s not as horrid as critics would lead you to believe.

What would I say to the critics? I would say that their complaint about The Hobbit movie being different from the Lord of the Rings movies is absolutely right. But of course it’s going to be. I wrote earlier that The Hobbit is just as important in terms of the story of the Ring as the trilogy is, but it’s still going to feel different. Lord of the Rings has humor; The Hobbit has a bit more and is more whimsical. It is a children’s book, after all. It’s not a stupid children’s book, but really, people. Lord of the Rings is dark, filled with battles, betrayal, and the ending of the elves’ way of life. They’re going to feel different. Different isn’t bad; it’s just different. Whether or not you like Middle-earth, you should try The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Rating: 4/5

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth, University of Iowa class of 2019. Double majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism. Twenty-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, and aspiring writer. Passionate about feminism and lesbian positivity.
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19 Responses to Movie Review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

  1. kimonoko says:

    I just looked it up, and apparently the stone giants are in The Hobbit *and* The Fellowship (briefly). It’s weird, I know, because I didn’t remember them at all – but they are mentioned in passing and basically they’re rarely seen creatures portrayed throwing rocks at each other.

    Good review!

  2. I can’t wait to see it now! And yes, isn’t Martin Freeman just so hobbity? Now when I watched Sherlock I’m just going to be thinking of him as Holmes Hobbit assistant.

  3. They aren’t stone giants, but the giants (or what ever they were) that were turned to stone at the touch of sunlight – Bilbo kept them arguing over how to cook the dwarves long enough for them to be cuaght in the sunlight…. If what you’re talking about and what I’m thinking about are the same thing. I remember seeing the giant stone statues in the Fellowship of the Ring and thinkging cool, what a nice tilt of the hat to something that happened int he Hobbit. :}

    But now to the part that bugs me…

    Three Movines? Seriously Three Movies?

    They did the Lord of the Rings in Three Movies!
    How come they couldn’t compress this one? It’s story is a heck of a lot shorter given that Lord of the Rings is three… one, two, three… books…

    I know I know, I’ll stop ranting, it’s not your fault… but seriously people.

    We want shorter books and longer movies?
    Ug… just means I have to pay the babysitter more money, because I know my kids won’t sit through it… if the ‘scary parts’ don’t get them first. *sigh*

    *mutters* Three Movies? *and shakes her head*

    But Legolas will have a repeat appearance eh? wonder how they’ll work him in. Don’t remember him being there in the book… too bad Aragorn couldn’t appear. *grins*

    • nevillegirl says:

      The trolls? That scene is great!

      I don’t know what to think, either. On one hand, it’s cool because there’s three times as much Hobbit and it also might help Jackson tell the story better. On the other hand, it might just be a way to get more money.

      The dwarves, Bilbo, & Gandalf get captured in Mirkwood by this elf king… and Legolas is a prince… 😀 I was sad that Aragorn couldn’t be in it, but there is Kili, who’s very Aragorn-ish but hotter! xD

  4. Okay, so you basically said everything that I was going to say except all eloquently and with internet-snow.
    I really loved this movie. Because no matter what its flaws, it meant I get to go back to Middle-Earth, and if there’s a little bit of padding, whatever, because I get to go back to Middle-Earth THREE TIMES!
    I completely agree with you about Radagast. The Hobbit book is whimsical and childlike and even a little bit silly in places, but downgrading a character to comic relief… one of the things that I loved about the Hobbit book was that no matter how funny the characters might act, the writing and the imagery and everything all concluded that they were characters on a Grand Adventure, capitals included, and there were forces greater than them building this really lovely world. In the movie, there was definitely that feel (helped quite a lot by Howard Shore- I completely agree with you about The Song of the Lonely Mountain, when you love the characters, it means so much), and then Radagast showed up. “LOL I HAZ CROSS-EYES AND AN OBVIOUSLY CGI HEDGEHOG!” It was way too cartoony for me. The Hobbit might be a fairytale, but it’s not a cartoon.
    About Azgog and the Orc plotlines- I agree that they got repetitive, and it was a bit sad to have so much of the screentime taken by this plot that wasn’t in the books (I think Azgog was taken from Tolkien’s writing, but I’m pretty sure in the book he died when Thorin thought he did). But I’m also really interested to see how Peter Jackson handles it over the entire story. Because one thing that did bother me in the books was that the the whole time it was about the dragon, until at the actual climax there was a random battle with Orcs that actually defined the victory. It sort of came out of the blue. So this plot thread, while kind of strange for fans of the books, might tie the ending in well. Also, while I didn’t love it, that scene at the end where Thorin faces down Azgog and fails and loses his oakenshield was so well-done and heartbreaking that I’m willing to cut Peter Jackson a bit of a break on this one.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Why, thank you. *bows and sprinkles Internet-snow around*

      I get to go back to Middle-earth FOUR times… *hasn’t seen all the trilogy movies yet*

      Totally. I mean, they didn’t have CGI in Middle-earth! Not even Gandalf can do CGI!

      Yes, if I remember correctly, in the book the Orcs just showed up to the final battle basically just for fun. They hate the dwarves, so this way they can kill some more.

  5. Leinad says:

    I really enjoyed your review. I didn’t read it until now because I first wanted to watch the film, and then I wanted to write my own review without being biased by other people’s opinions. I agree with everything you said, even though you included a lot of things I didn’t include (and also, being a guy, I didn’t notice that Kili was “hot”).

    About the giants in the mountains — if I remember rightly (it’s been a long time since I read The Hobbit) they were in the book, but they were only mentioned in passing: something to the tune of “the storm raged and the giants of the mountains hurled boulders at each other”. Though I was not surprised at the giants’ inclusion, I felt that their depiction was very much over-the-top.

    I especially agree with you about Radagast. I didn’t like the way they depicted him very much.

    But on the whole I liked the movie.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yes, I wouldn’t expect you to agree on that. 😛 Unfortunately Kili doesn’t have a ton of personality to go along with the hotness so now I’m like “Kili who?”

      I realized like just yesterday while reading the LotR Appendices that most of the stuff Jackson added (and that I wasn’t too happy with) is from there. Azog, etc.

      I can’t wait to read your review!

  6. Leinad says:

    Ah OK, that makes me feel a lot better. I don’t think I have ever read the Appendices come to think of it, I really should do that… I should read the Silmarillion too, last time I tried that book I only got about 4 pages in.

    • nevillegirl says:

      They’re actually pretty cool. I thought they would be boring, but they added loads of cool information about characters I liked.

      I’ve read about twenty pages of The Silmarillion… but I cheated and read the end first. 😀 The part about the War of the Ring. I should get to the rest of it soon…

  7. Mary says:

    I finally got to read your review! In the case of additions to the movie, I heard that most of those came from notes Tolkien made about The Hobbit/Middle Earth – as in ones he didn’t use in his stories. Anyway, that was a good review and it’s cool to hear the point of view of a new-but-knowledgeable Middle Earth fan!

    By the way, have you heard about the female character they’re introducing in the upcoming Hobbit movies? I read that she’s an elf called Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lily, and will somehow be romantically involved with either Fili or Kili (I can’t remember which).

    • nevillegirl says:

      No, I’m a new-but-annoying Middle-earth fan, according to my family! They listened to me babble about HP for years and now I won’t shut up about hobbits.

      Yeah. :/ And she’s with Kili. Blergh. I’m all for female characters in the series, possibly even ones they made up, but NOT JUST AS LOVE INTERESTS!!!

  8. Pingback: Movie Review: The Hobbit – The Desolation Of Smaug | Musings From Neville's Navel

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