The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is loaded with the cinema auteur's trademark splendor -- breathtaking vistas, richly fantastic interiors, amazing creatures (this film's demonic orcs seem more three-dimensional), epic battles -- but the true payday for this first entry in another Jackson / Tolkien trilogy, at least for me, were the set pieces that feature some stellar cameos. Yes, yes, Ian McKellen is terrific as the cagey wizard Gandalf the Grey and Martin Freeman (Sherlock and The Office [original U.K. series]) is a beautifully realized Bilbo Baggins, the "burglar / hobbit" recruited by the 13 dwarves pictured here to help them reclaim from a loathsome dragon their mountain home and the mounds of treasure within. In contrast to the Lord of the Rings series, which balanced action and exposition pretty well, some sections of the nearly three-hour film drag but that's to cavil about relatively small matters when what Jackson has put on the screen is so wonderfully entertaining. I was especially delighted by the Troll brothers (William Kircher, Peter Hambleton and Mark Hadlow) as they bickered over the best seasoning for dwarf-on-a-spit, the riddle scene with Bilbo and Gollum (the ever amazing Andy Serkis) and the Great Goblin's gambol, which featured Barry Humphries (yes, he of Dame Edna Everidge) as the Goblin. The Hobbit has more humorous moments than the Ring trilogy and no romance, unless you count audience members falling under the spell of the dreamy dwarf prince Thorin, played by the towering (6'-2") Richard Armitage. The film is probably too intense for very young children. The orcs are frightening but the dwarves are fun, as is to be expected. Highly Recommended.