Film review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (4 out of 5 stars)

The saga continues once more as we embark on another trip to JRR Tolkien’s magical world.

Tuesday, 18th December 2012, 8:29 am

Instead of trying to contract the massive story that was The Lord of the Rings into three movies, the production team have decided to expand Tolkien’s much smaller story into a trilogy.

Based on this first offering, that decision may have been a tad over-optimistic.

As good as it is, an audience does struggle to sit comfortably for 169 minutes, despite the obvious value for money.

The acting is excellent, the camera-work superb and Peter Jackson’s direction once more top-class.

However, rated at 12A it may give some children of that age a nightmare or two.

For those few people unaware of the plot, the story pre-dates The Lord of the Rings by several decades.

The dwarves’ mountain kingdom Erebor has been taken over by a fierce dragon Smaug and its inhabitants forced to scatter.

A group of them, led by Thorin (Richard Armitage), plus wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) set off on a trek back to their home to reclaim it.

Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is persuaded to come along as well, leaving his gentle and peaceful life.

This first film see the group battle Orcs, trolls and other strange adversaries on their journey.

We also encounter familiar faces from The Lord of the Rings, such as Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel, Hugo Weaving’s Elrond and Christopher Lee’s Saruman.

But probably the most anticipated return is Andy Serkis as Gollum - and he doesn’t disappoint.

The scene with Baggins deep within a mountain is brilliant, full of humour and menace.

In fact, the whole cast comes up trumps and does its best to keep your attention while parts of your body turn numb with sitting still for so long.

Despite its marathon length, though, this first Hobbit instalment is well worth a visit.

Although there are plenty of battles, there is more humour than in The Lord of the Rings, thanks mainly to a superb performance from Freeman.

Film details: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (12A) 169mins

Director: Peter Jackson

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage

Screening courtesy of Cineworld Crawley

Steve Payne