'Journey' offers nothing 'unexpected'

Before I crawl out of my hobbit hole, I should preface this tale by telling you I have a special connection to The Hobbit that no movie could diminish — no matter how long it was.

I read The Hobbit at age 10, and it was the first book I ever truly enjoyed. I am now an English major. I have spent countless hours watching The Lord of the Rings series and even playing the video games — don’t judge me. When I found out The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was coming to a theater near me, I was ecstatic.

But I was extremely disappointed that Peter Jackson decided to split this amazing tale into three separate segments. This resulted in a three-hour movie of incredible landscapes and interesting plot set-up but little action. This first movie essentially set up the subsequent two movies by sending Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) on his first epic journey.

The quest surrounds a clan of dwarves’ attempt to regain the mountain home they lost to a dragon, Smaug, in a violent raid that forced them into a nomadic existence. The leaders of this lost race are determined to retrieve their treasure and their home by defeating the dragon. But they need someone small and brave to kill such a forceful creature, which is why the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) sends them to the hobbit Bilbo. It is on this fateful journey that Bilbo finds the ring of power that is the basis of the Lord of the Rings series.

Having already tackled the beloved LOTR films, director Peter Jackson once again impresses with stunning cinematography and awesome action scenes — when there was action, that is. The beloved characters, including Gandalf, Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Elrond (Hugo Weaving), made appearances in The Hobbit that had me geeking out. Perhaps best of all, LOTR fans finally got to see those dwarfs that Gimli had gone on and on about.

Though it was fun to discover these small references, the filmmakers did not do a particularly good job creating the dwarves themselves. Their makeup was overdone, and I was not impressed by the wardrobe choices, which made them look like they had come out of Snow White — not the look I was hoping for. This sounds picky, but when I am staring at these dwarfs for three hours I expect them to look spectacular. I was disappointed.

This sounds like a lot of negatives, but there were some high points to which I would like to call attention. Bilbo Baggins was well cast: Martin Freeman embodied the innocence of a hobbit who grew up in the mystically perfect Shire but also displayed the bravery and hidden strength required of such a quiet hero. Freeman particularly shone in a scene in which the dwarves took over Bilbo’s once-silent home and threw china and furniture everywhere to conduct a boisterous meeting about the dragon and lost treasure. This was a particularly fun scene to watch in 3-D, as was a scene where the motley crew have to fight a group of trolls — one of the film’s few action sequences. The trolls were as large and dumb as the book described.

I will very likely see the later movies in the trilogy, but I wish The Hobbit had been made as one out-of-this-world movie rather than a trilogy. I see this as Peter Jackson looking to make more money and it disturbs me that a book I hold so dear could be sold out and made to look boring to those who can’t geek out alongside me.

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