I remember how magical the world of Middle Earth was to me when I first dipped into the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. A world filled with many races all entangled in an epic battle of good and evil. When the One Ring was finally destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom, and the the elves, Gandalf, Bilbo, and Frodo left Middle Earth forever I had a moment of sadness. The Lord of the Rings was over. Years of my life involved in what was an amazing story has come to pass. Now over seven years later director Peter Jackson has brought me back to the world of Tolkien’s masterpiece with a new prequel trilogy, The Hobbit.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first part of a three part prequel trilogy based on the story of Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is recruited by Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) to accompany a group of thirteen dwarves on an adventure to reclaim a treasure they lost to Smaug the Dragon in the Lonely Mountain. While Hobbits don’t necessarily appreciate the mere thought of adventure, Bilbo would eventually take part in the biggest adventure of his life. An unexpected adventure where he will eventually come to pass with something “precious” that every Lord of the Rings fan knows all about. Just keep in mind that the finding of this “precious” item is just a side story to a much grander adventure.

Now when it comes to The Hobbit, most people will try to compare it to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sure it has some similarities, but comparing both of them will be like comparing apples to oranges. You just can’t do it. J.R.R. Tolkien originally wrote The Hobbit as a children’s book. The Lord of the Rings trilogy however was for more of a grown up audience. Peter Jackson’s vision for The Hobbit is no children’s story. The same Middle Earth I knew from The Lord of the Rings trilogy is here once again except this time there’s more CGI than ever before. In a way that takes away a bit of the magic of the previous films, but I’m not going to make a big deal about that.

One big similarity is the fact that it seems that The Hobbit is presenting me with an all new sort of Fellowship. Basically this new crew consists of Gandalf, Bilbo, twelve Gimlis and an Aragorn wannabe. Sure it’s not the Fellowship that I’m familiar with from The Lord of the Rings, but they do have their moments which I’m alright with. Of all the dwarves, it’s the leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) that stands out the most. He’s the badass of the group with rugged looks and his ass kicking fighting ability. While Thorin is no Aragorn he is very likable and the type of character I would want watching my back if I had to go into battle. As for the other dwarves…well they’re quite forgettable.

The Hobbit also features quite a few faces that I remember from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Back for this adventure include Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Saruman (Christopher Lee), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving). older Bilbo (Ian Holm), Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Gollum (Andy Serkis). I must praise the performance of Ian McKellen because he once again nails the role of Gandalf the Grey. He is also a complete badass during the battle sequences. I also have to once again commend the performance of Andy Serkis as Gollum. I really enjoyed Gollum in the trilogy, and seeing him again in The Hobbit was amazing. His scenes and riddles with Bilbo made me both happy and a little sad at the same time, because I knew after this film I won’t see Gollum on the big screen ever again.

While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an amazing adventure there is something that holds it back. Length. Not in terms of the film itself, but the fact that Peter Jackson is making this one book into a trilogy. That’s a little much considering the fact that now some scenes will be extended a little longer than expected. This is noticeable in the opening hour of the film as it seems to drag on for awhile before the action begins to pick up in the second half. There was a moment where I swear that I heard a snore or two in the theater during the Shire sequences only to be woken up again when the soundtrack got a little louder and the action kicked in. Sadly, I feel like there will be more of this in the upcoming films as well.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a welcome return to the world of Middle Earth. Seeing Bilbo’s adventures and how the events of The Lord of the Rings will begin is pretty cool. The acting is wonderful even though some of the CGI moments in the battles are highly noticeable. Just a piece of advice: watch the movie in 24 frames per second because it just feels right. Peter Jackson did make the movie for 48 frames per second, but from what I’ve heard from some moviegoers is that it didn’t feel the same. Maybe the movie going audience is just not ready for the future yet. Good thing I watched it the way I’m used to. Overall, this is a film meant for the fans. For everyone else you might want to consider a rental on Blu-Ray.

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