When one particular uneventful morning in Hobbiton, or more importantly within the green hills of the Shire and at the oval door of a quite unlikely hobbit, a rather unexpected Journey began. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys his second breakfast as much as the next hobbit and likes nothing more than his own company and a book beside the fire place in Bag End, so when Gandalf the Grey an infamous and mischievous wizard appears on his porch offering an adventure of a life time Bilbo flat out refuses and offers the wizard the best and a good morning. Though as tea time comes around, Mr Baggins finds himself welcoming a host of quite uninvited and bizarre group of Dwarves, 13 to be precise all arriving on the whim of Gandalf, believing that our dear Mr Baggins is actually a burglar and again urging him into the ensuing dangerous journey. While he persists that a Baggins of Bag End has no want for adventure when the final calling comes Bilbo finds himself signing a contract and running off to meet his fate. Fountains flowing of gold, a lonely mountain far to the east and a great fire drake dragon from the north by the name of Smaug awaits Bilbo Baggins and his merry company though before that he'll find himself facing many trials. Vengeful orcs, hordes of Goblins and their foul king and most importantly before even crossing the threshold of the Misty Mountains, Bilbo will find himself in a most unusual game of riddles with the most unlikely of opponents and end up in the possession of something quite precious indeed.
Martin Freeman easily becomes Bilbo Baggins and that's even before the make up and prosthetics it's rare to see such a perfect encapsulation of a character which makes it so hard to consider any one else in the role and yet no one comes to mind to out do Freeman's dry wit and completely absurd to point of politeness Bilbo Baggins. Every good fantasy film in the past few years has had a wizard and the most infamous wizard even before the Potters and the Dumbledore's in the literature world, Gandalf the Grey. Played again by Sir Ian Mckellen with the same perfection he brought to the role in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, his character still holds strong among all the familiar and new faces. In the first part of the new trilogy, while not all the Dwarves come across as gigantic players in the films narrative a few do poke above the height limit. One such dwarf is Thorin Oakenshield played by a shrunken Richard Armitage who brings a sense of leadership to the Dwarf clan and a sense of the same feel which Aragorn gave to the fellowship though with another sharp fury at his past endeavours and what awaits them at the Lonely Mountain. Keeping Thorin friendly is the wisdom of the dwarves in Ken Stott as Balin alongside James Nesbitt as Bofur bring council to both Thorin and Mr Baggins as they draw ever onwards and bringing the sense of life and youthful energy to the vertically challenged is Aidan Turner and Dean O'Gorman as Kili and Fili respectively. Elsewhere in Middle-Earth comes a wave of familiar faces including Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Clate Blanchett and Christopher Lee all reprising their roles. While a fresh face of cameos keep the story and world fresh with the likes of Sylvester McCoy as the Brown wizard Radagast, Lee Pace as the eleven prince Thranduil and even a sly Brett Mckenzie as the elf Lindir. Though a newly animated face, a returning one which is as much welcomed as it is loathed From the green hills of Hobbiton to the Black Gate of Mordor, Andy Serkis reprises the emotional scoundrel of the dark and current holder of the ring of power, his precious, Gollum.
Starting from the perspective of an Old Bilbo recounting his journey in a bound book which would later pass on to his nephew Frodo, The Hobbit begins with a trickle of fame and an introduction to the fortress dwarven city of Erebor and the beautiful city of Dale before just as quickly, the films central antagonist makes his brief appearance, like Sauron in the Fellowship.and unleashes the chaos. So sets up the resulting journey of Throin and his kin, to take back Erebor and reclaim what is rightfully there's. Peter Jackson starts this new trilogy with little haste, instead it rolls along easing you back into Middle-Earth even though the feel is very much present as it was back when Frodo set out himself from the shire. While Bilbo's fellowship doesn't feel as homely as his nephews it starts off small yet the promise is there, in fact viewed in that way An Unexpected Journey may end up being a very clever metaphor for like the titular Hobbit, it starts of small and with promise and grows to the height of greatness. Eased back into proceedings, as the film scurries
forward and we catch site of familiar elements like the waterfalls of Rivendell and the chilling hollow eyes of Gollum welcoming us back, yet at the same time we catch glimpses of a fresh side of the well versed realm from the mystical forests of Mirkwood to the Misty Mountains. Both a subtle return for long term fans and a fresh an entertaining journey across Middle-Earth for those viewing the breathtaking landscapes for the first time. As the film reaches a point to cross over to the next with the Lonely Mountain still far yet ever closer in the distance, we're left wanting more and while it may not tower over the previous trilogy yet, Bilbo Baggins still brings a sense of hope to the next few steps of the journey and an engaging return to a much loved story that has the unique and universal appeal to bridge generations with its charming tale.
8 / 10
8 / 10