A fellow named Bilbo Baggins lives in the Shire--but perhaps you've made his acquaintance already? If you're familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien's epic Lord of the Rings
trilogy, and the films that Peter Jackson wrought from them, of course you have. And here is Bilbo, played again by Ian Holm, shuffling about his hobbit hole and recalling a grand adventure from his past, when he left the Shire with a wizard and some dwarves and found a certain ring and a very peculiar creature named Gollum. This is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
, which Jackson and his LOTR
crew have expanded on from Tolkien's 1937 novel. And boy, have they expanded: this 169-minute escapade is merely the first of three separate movies made from that one book, and it gets the young Bilbo (played by Martin Freeman) only a little ways into his grand trek. Many loud, garish battles and chases fill the time, along with some (it pains one to say it) fairly tedious adolescent-level humor. Jackson tends to dally with scenes that might have been more effective in half the time, and the bumptious dwarves are some of the least charming characters in the Tolkieniad. Thank goodness, there's Gollum (played, as before, by the digitally transformed Andy Serkis), who shares a riddle-trading scene with Bilbo that sends genuine shivers up the spine. Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf, and a few other LOTR
folk make cameos, but the more An Unexpected Journey
goes on, the less you sense the magic afoot. Despite the fun moments, this feels like a prologue for the actual movie, which is still to come. (Originally released on many screens in 3-D, the film was also showcased in some theaters in a pioneering format that increased the clarity of the image--or made it look like a soap opera, depending on your receptiveness to the flat, frictionless technology.) --Robert Horton
From the Studio
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first chapter in Peter Jackson’s new epic trilogy set in Middle-Earth 60 years before J.R.R. Toklien’s The Lord of the Rings saga. Follow Bilbo Baggins as he’s swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them through treacherous lands swarming with Trolls, Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs. They must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature Gollum who will change his life forever. Alone with Gollum on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers guile and courage that surprise him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities, tied to the fate of all Middle-Earth. Several key talent members from The Lord of the Rings trilogy reprise their roles, along with exciting new cast members.