There has been a small ripple of dislike towards The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey, which I believe are wrong.
The film, the first in a trilogy from Peter Jackson, has taken a similar structure to LOTR debutant, The Fellowship of the Ring. It starts slowly, allowing each character gain a personality, whilst the narrative steadily unfolds around them.
From the outset, we can see that this will be a tale that revolves around choice, especially that of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the films narrator and protagonist. What really drives the plot is the diversity between the three leads characters – Baggins – the quintessential timid, non-hero, thrust into an adventure, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) – wise and experienced, and Thorin (Richard Armitage) – Proud and abrupt. It’s this mix of personalities that move the film and creates believable conflicts and narrative movement.
Freeman plays a young Bilbo Baggins fantastically. His performance clearly shows an understanding of the development that Baggins goes through from a timid hobbit towards a brave and clever traveller.
Thorin’s character is the most unlikable. He is head strong, proud and driven towards one goal, most of the time at the cost of his own safety and the tiny troop of dwarfs following him. However, Armitage took on this role understanding this, and has managed to make the audience understand Thorin’s recklessness and emote to it.
My only qualm with the film is the element of humor. Unlike the LOTR trilogy, there is now an element of unnecessary one or two line quirks. For example, Gandalf and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) joke about Gandalf’s attire for a meal. And that is it. It goes against the more slap stick comedy we see in the film, that is mainly provoked by the 8 dwarfs.
What is clearly different, and may be what sways audience opinion of the film, is the element of underlying narratives. The goal of the film is to reach The Lonely Mountain and reclaim the Dwarf’s home. There are, however, three main underlying narratives that run bellow this. One is a mysterious necromancer, one is a giant Orc determined to kill all Dwarfs, and another is that of the Ring. With three secondary narratives not yet showing any relation to the first, but only hindering the movement of the characters, does mean there is an advanced plot and story line. This is something that could possibly frustrate and annoy some audience members due layered plot not usually found in blockbusters.
The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey is all I expected it to be – a story and character building film. It is pulled off in classic Jackson style, but doesn’t feel like it can live up to the legacy that LOTR left. Should it be compared to the former trilogy? Perhaps not, but it is impossible to escape a comparison.