Peter Jackson's adaptation of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," is based on J. R. R. Tolkien's book. Penned in 1937, "The Hobbit" is an adventure-fantasy centered around a childlike character who discovers he has unexpected strengths. Compared to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Tolkien's sequels, written in the mid-1950s, "The Hobbit's" more humorous tone does not come through in this first of Jackson's three "Hobbit" installments.
Jackson planned to split Tolkien's 287-page "Hobbit" into two films, but after deciding to incorporate the "Lord of the Rings" appendices, the plans was revamped for another trilogy.
"The Lord of the Rings" films overflow with nail-biting adventure and captivating battles while part one of the "The Hobbit" dwells largely in talky scenes and character exposition. Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf, bringing both gravitas and humor to the wizard responsible for persuading young Bilbo to join in an adventure that becomes more important than the adventurers predicted.
Standing in as Bilbo, Martin Freeman's scowling portrayal is off key. When the dwarfs arrive at Bilbo's hobbit home for a pre-adventure gathering and meal, Bilbo frets about the family dishes in the most unappealing grandmotherly fashion, and seems unable to grasp the enormity of the dwarfs' misfortune.
Led by the dead dwarf king's son Thorin (Richard Armitage), the company of 13 dwarfs seek to reclaim their lost, underground kingdom from a fearsome dragon. Beyond restoring their kingdom, the dwarf's quest is important to restoring the balance of Middle Earth, where the side of good is represented by wizards, men, elves, hobbits and dwarfs, and evil emerges in the form of dragons, orcs and trolls.
As always, Jackson does an admirable job creating a host of CGI creatures. Filming this new trilogy at 48 frames per second, and in 3D, brings the action into sharp focus.
Once again, Andy Serkis reprises his motion capture role as Gollum, a hobbit long ago corrupted and altered by the possession of an evil, powerful ring. Malevolent, pitiable and comical, the arrival of Gollum's character, which doesn't occur until approximately two hours into the movie, reinvigorates the action.
Because Tolkien wrote "The Hobbit" with a younger audience in mind, this tale is considerably less tense and frightening than "The Lord of the Rings." Because the franchise can expect to rake in nearly $1 billion per film, as did each "Lord of the Rings" movie, Jackson has been accused of milking the material for its maximum profit. During "The Hobbit's" opening weekend, the film garnered $85 million dollars. Whether viewers like it as much as his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Jackson will have delivered nine hours of quality film by this trilogy's end. The audience gets its money's worth while enjoying another opportunity to revisit Middle Earth.