SUMMARY (from IMDB): A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on a "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.
I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the first weekend it was out back in December. I even put down notes for a review, but I have never got around to actually write it until now.
Do I need to say I loved this film? It's Jackson's Tolkien adaptation, of course I did. Before seeing it, I had been sceptical about the length, but nearly three hours passed in no time.
The two most powerful elements of the film are spectacular scenery and magical music. The film is visually stunning and the music really is music to the ears.
Jackson surely knows how to bring places and the characters on the screen. Naturally, not everything can ever be depicted as imagined when reading the book, but Jackson's variety come very close to what I can accept. (I do have some issues, but I will get to them a little later).
I love the way Jackson connects The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with other Tolkien's works – The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.
Thus, I liked Jackson's Radagast, of whom Tolkien doesn't say much beside where he lives and that he is good with animals. With his funny antics he reminded me of a character from Slovene children's stories, for which I liked him all the more.
I loved the subtle hints of Sméagol behind Gollum and Saruman's turning evil is peeking from under the facade. Goblins and trolls are gross, much more than I imagine when reading it – that's why I prefer books to movies: while reading I can reduce imagining the disgusting parts to the necessary minimum but while watching films all I can do is look away, hopefully in time.
Now, although The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is overall and amazing film, my inner Tolkien nerd can't do without some complaints. This is where this review gets SPOILER-y for those who haven't read the book (and seen the film).
First of all, the action scenes were in some spots seriously exaggerated. I understand the film makers wanted to make it more breath-taking, but there is no way anyone could survive those kind of falls, much less stay completely unharmed. But that is a minor thing and it does not as much bother me as it is ridiculous.
While Richard Armitage did a great job as Thorin, he is too young for Thorin. Conversely, Balin is too old. Again, I understand the wish to make Thorin more appealing for the viewers as well as more active than in the book. Also, Thorin's refusal to go to Rivendell is not in the book, but it works well in lieu of the history of disputes between the dwarves and the elves.
I am mostly understanding why changes have to be made when adopting a book to film. Yet, there is at least one unnecessary change in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: that is changing the roles of Azog and Bolg. I really don't see the point of it, to me the goblins hatred of dwarves, especially Thorin and his companions, has much more sense the way Tolkien wrote it, with Azog being killed by Dain in the Battle of Azanulbizar and Bolg being son of Azog.
Next, I was confused by the presumed Morgul blade which Radagast comes across in Dol Guldur – this was not in the book, and I think this wasn't a well-premeditated addition to the film. For, if the blade that Radagast gives Gandalf and Gandalf brings to the White Council is the sword of the King of Angmar aka Lord of the Nazgûl aka the Wraith-King, how does the Wraith-King get it back to stab Frodo with it? I think a weapon like that would be a unique thing in Tolkien's world, so that was a goof on the screen-writer's part.
The thing that bothered me the most was diminishing the role of Gandalf. In LOTR, Gandalf knows Sauron tortured Thrain in his dungeons in Dol Guldur and also took his Dwarf Ring. Tolkien explicitly states Gandalf found Thrain there when Thrain didn't remember anything, not even his own name, but he remembered to give Gandalf the map to the secret door and the key for him to pass to his son (from which Gandalf deduced who Thrain was and kept the map and the key safe until he met Thorin and gave them to him). So, making Gandalf unaware of the danger of Dol Guldur and Sauron's return makes Gandalf's character less wise and powerful than in Tolkien's books.
However, I liked some changes which work well, such as Gandalf sending for the eagles and the Orcs and Wargs arriving at the glade together instead of separately.
On the whole, despite my quibbles, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an amazing film adaptation, captivating to the last minute. I had been wondering how they were going to make three films out of such a short book, but seeing the film, I believe it is going to work out well.
RECOMMENDATION: As a Tolkien fan, I was sceptic about the film, but after seeing it, I definitely recommend it, not only to those who read Tolkien's works (if you didn't, what are you waiting for?) but to everyone who likes fantasy and adventure.