If it’s been said once it’s been said a thousand times, Peter Jackson is a masterful storyteller and a true craftsman of cinema. And though the director surely has nothing to prove now that his version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary “Lord of the Rings Trilogy” has been placed, as it should be, in the lauded halls of immortal cinema, Jackson’s prequel to it all further speaks to his mastery of the celluloid arts.
Daring, thoughtful, and just as enveloping as the tales it leads up to, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” sets a solid foundation for the next two installments – “The Desolation of Smaug,” set for December 2013 and “There and Back Again,” set expectantly for December 2014 – and the unyielding performances by both new and returning cast members burn hotter than the fires of Mount Doom. Freeman’s work as Bilbo brings a competent authenticity to the average-man-pulled-into-extraordinary-circumstances requirement without being too nattering, McKellen’s Gandalf grounds the chaos well as the elder fixture and, as always, Andy Serkis continues to take his quirky and conniving Gollum to new heights of splendidly seedy CGI magic. Jackson’s telling isn’t quite as focused this time around, as many facets of Tolkien’s story-line are either absent or uncharacteristically hurried. But in the director’s defense, Tolkien embeds so much rich detail into this one installment alone that it would take several tacked on hours to cover it correctly. Better to handle it that way then the alternative chop jobs. Many franchises these days annoyingly choose to imply that given the boundless amount of back-story their subject matter entails – the Harry Potter franchise comes to mind, with Chamber of Secrets topping out at only 161 minutes – the audience wouldn’t stand, or rather sit, for the time it takes to roll out each rich and all encompassing tale, which is perhaps why Jackson; or more likely the studio, scaled this Hobbit down to 169 minutes. But the truth of the matter is, especially given the fandom these franchises have amassed, that most would be more than happy to sit stock still until the last frame rolls, even if said frame lay 3+ hours away. Tolkien’s deftly forged franchise isn’t exactly one that is happened upon, but rather one that it sought out for its rich detail and sweeping scale. Don’t even get me started about why there are “deleted scenes” for these films. That being said, even with Hobbit’s rushed pacing and skimmed over subjects, this journey is one in which you’ll be glad you walked out your front door. Jackson stays true to form in flooding the special features menu, with brilliantly exhausting looks into countless aspects of the making of Unexpected Journey in his 10 tiered video journals, as well as another sweeping, yet smaller, trip back to New Zealand for a Jackson and crew guided tour of the film’s captivating locales. The major issue with each of these journals though, is that they weren’t specifically designed for the disc release, but rather acted as forerunner material leading up to the film’s theatrical release. Thus they cater more toward hinting at what was to come with Unexpected Journey, rather than probing further as stand-alone segments. Wisely enough though, Jackson has added an extra enticement in the form of a code that, once entered on March 24th, will enable viewers to catch a sneak peak of the Hobbit’s second installment, ” The Desolation of Smaug” hosted live by Jackson himself. A collection of theatrical and game trailers is also included. So with an always impressive command of content and Tolkien’s border-less imagination leading him onward, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” remarkably revisits the heights, fights, sights and sounds of Middle-earth.
Studio Synopsis: The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the Wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 Dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild, through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs, as well as a mysterious and sinister figure known only as the Necromancer. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the Goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities…A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.
Studio: Warner Bros.
Running Time: 169 minutes
Number of Disks: 3
- Peter Jackson’s Video Journals:
*Start of Production
*Shooting Block One
*Filming in 3D
*Locations Part I
*Locations Part II
*Stone St. Studios Tour
*Wrap of Principal Photography
*Wellington World Premiere
- New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth
- Sneak Peek Access Code: The Desolation of Smaug *activated March 24, 2013
- Theatrical Trailers:
- Game Trailers:
*Kingdoms of Middle-Earth
*Guardians of Middle-Earth
*LEGO Lord of the Rings
Central Cast: Martin Freeman | Ian McKellen | Richard Armitage | Hugo Weaving | Cate Blanchett | Andy Serkis | Christopher Lee | Manu Bennett | Ian Holm | Elijah Wood
Director: Peter Jackson
Central Writers: J.R.R. Tolkien | Peter Jackson | Fran Walsh | Philippa Boyens | Guillermo del Toro
Theatrical Release: December 14, 2012
Blu-Ray/DVD Release: March 19, 2013
Genre: Adventure | Fantasy
Supporting Cast and more Writers found HERE
Images: Warner Bros MGM