If there is anything we can take from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (the first in a trilogy of Hobbit-y goodness), is that Peter Jackson is a control freak.  An utter perfectionist who must be hell to work for.

Because The Hobbit was darn near perfect.

Don’t get me wrong, while at times the storyline was a tad cliche, it went for too long, and I’m still wondering how they’ve managed to turn a children’s book into what will equate to at least eight hours of screen time, overall The Hobbit didn’t disappoint.

I haven’t read the Hobbit since I was about ten years old, so my memory of the overall storyline is somewhat foggy.  Dragon, hobbit, wicked quest for lots of gold, and a wizard being awesome and saving the day with his staff.

All the usual business that one expects from a fantasy novel.

However, what I do remember from the novel, being at that lovely age where everything is impressionable, is that while it is a story about glory, riches and evil bad guys with terrible facial scars, at the end of the day, it’s also a story about friendship, standing up for one another, and most of all, finding courage when you least expect it.

This is something that came through strongly in the film.  While Bilbo Baggins may be a reluctant member of their party, and Thorin a bit of a wet-blanket (considering his childhood, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise), the team of dwarves, Hobbit and Wizard stick together through thick and thin.

Furthermore, considering The Hobbit is essentially a lead-up to The Lord of The Rings, a somewhat dark trilogy (death, destruction, total power and whatnot), the film does a fantastic job of occasionally poking fun at itself, and reminding us that this is meant to be a jolly good time, and not a scary film.  The Brown Wizard with his pack of sleigh-pulling rabbits, the quips of the king goblin just before he dies, the one-liners from the dwarves, all add to a bit of a laugh.

Of course the stand out feature of this film isn’t the storyline, because in all honesty, that credit goes solely to J. R. R. Tolkien, but rather the awe-inspiring visuals.  The first feature film to be filmed with a rate of 48 frames per second, every detail was emphasised, each colour vibrant.

And with the lush, almost surreal settings of New Zealand as its back drop (where I conveniently watched the film), the entire thing was beautiful to watch.  The soaring mountains, huge fantastical backdrops, and green, rolling hills that just do not exist in Australia (or many places for that matter) made it so easy to pretend that I was in middle earth; potentially the only place where I would be taller than the average person.  Yes please.

And Peter Jackson being the director that he is, every visual detail was amplified and perfected.  The make-up and costumes; the original, over-the-top beards and hair of each individual dwarf;  the sheer beauty of Rivensdale.  A personal favourite was the wonderful special effects of the fight between two massive stone giants; only a hell of a lot of money and sheer talent could pull that off.

Special Mentions:

  • Gandalf the Grey: Is there anything that Gandalf can’t do?  Probably not.  If only it were possible for he and Dumbledore to meet, then they could get together and create a genetically-impossible baby Wizard that would just take awesome-ness to a whole new level.  But I digress.  Ian McKellen’s portrayal of the wizard is spot on; kind, smart and above all, a bad arse.  Not only does he save them all from the goblins, somehow get a pack of giant eagles to arrive in the nick of time, AND share a flirty moment with Lady Galadriel, but he instils courage into the unlikeliest of warriors; Bilbo Baggins.  What an operator.
  • Andy Serkis.  I don’t know if Andy Serkis is a fantastic actor, or a massive creepy weirdo in real life.  Probably both.  But either way, he is damn entertaining to watch as Gollum.  His movements, facial expressions and interactions with Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins) are so lifelike, I had to continually remind myself that he wasn’t actually real. And the creepy, hissy voice he uses is beyond comparison; I don’t know if there’s a category for it, but just give the man an Oscar for his work already.
  • Smaug the terrible.  I know that, as a dragon who leaves death and destruction in his wake wherever he goes, Smaug is technically ‘the bad guy’ in this story, but damn, I love his style.  He spends his days rolling around in an entire mountain full of treasure, basking in his gold.  Sure, he’s shallow and probably loves jewels a little too much, but at least he’s honest about it!  And let’s be realistic, begrudging a dragon for wanting a mountain of treasure for himself is like begrudging a female who gets a bit giggly when faced with Ryan Gosling; inevitable and cold-hearted.

I’m not sure how they’re going to play out the next two films, and what twists they’ll have next (no doubt those frightfully unattractive Orcs will return), but needless to say I’m sure that whatever Peter Jackson and his, no doubt stressed, team produce next will be amazing.

Have you seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey?  What did you think?  Did it live up to your childhood memories of the novel?  Is Tolkien turning in his grave?  Let me know!