Just as the second part of Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkiens rather slight prequel to The Lord of the Rings is hitting cinemas, the first part has been re-released in what is now a Jackson tradition – the Extended Edition. While not quite as extended as The Lord of the Rings or King Kong, An Unexpected Journey has some nice additions to the story which help tie Jackson’s film vision in with the narrative of The Lord of the Rings.
Martin Freeman stars as Bilbo Baggins, a prim, easy going Hobbit who is coaxed by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) into joining a ragtag band of dwarves as they journey to reclaim their homeland from the vicious dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch in parts 2 and 3). On its release, The Hobbit was met with criticisms over its controversial High Frame Rate version (I have actually not seen this version, so I’m not prepared to comment) and the fact that the film adds much padding to the book and is a lot more childish than the Lord of the Rings. Personally I enjoyed the film – it didn’t have the same initial impact as Rings, but then it is a very different story. The Hobbit is a childrens book and this shows through in the film with focus on big action set pieces and quirky shenanegans from the dwarves. While it retains the playfulness of the novel, Jackson has raided Tolkien’s notes and appendices to flesh out the rather simple A to B to C story with additional material which ties things in to the ultimate story of The Lord of the Rings. It’s a fun ride, more of a popcorn film than the, at times, rather dour Rings trilogy, and it benefits from that tone well.
I should also note that the 3D in this film is spectacular. Shot for 3D in HFR, the layers of the film pop moreso than any other 3D presentation I’ve seen in 2013 (with the possible exception of the equally beautiful Life of Pi) and add a sense of realism to the film which I feel is lost in the 2D version. If you get the chance and you can stomach 3D, you should experience this film in that way.