This is anything BUT an unexpected journey. Granted I don’t like prequels. Especially ones that have characters from the film (s) that went before. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is exactly that type of film. The title begs a laugh.
“The Hobbit” trilogy takes place before the events in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Many are already familiar with Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm/Martin Lawrence), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Gollum (Andy Serkis) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving). Because they were ALL alive at the start of the “Rings” trilogy, we know they can’t die in the “Hobbit” trilogy. Where’s the suspense? Folks, there ain’t any!
“The Hobbit” was bound to the source material, a 1937 fantasy novel. Unlike the prequel, “Prometheus,” the characters were more or less set in stone. “Prometheus” (prequel to “Alien”) featured all-new characters and was an amazing effort, not only because of the excellent story but because we did not know the characters’ collective fates. “The Hobbit” needed a protagonist that didn’t appear in the “Rings” trilogy. But, that couldn’t happen. It was already settled by the given circumstances.
Production values for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” are very high. Superb special effects. Likeable characters. Some interesting situations. But, the story drags thanks to the uber long journey.
SPOILER ALERT: Gandalf is a weak wizard. He generates very little magic in the first film. He shoulda-coulda been more help to his posse. Why didn’t Gandalf send for the giant eagles to fly Bilbo and the dwarves to Lonely Mountain in the first place? They could have avoided all that hiking and fighting and danger. END SPOILER ALERT.
Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien may like sitting through a 169 minute film, that easily could have been trimmed by at least 50 minutes. But, I was constantly aware of the long running time. Ouch. Grade: C-