Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false namings of real events.
In the case of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, his journey into the past is complicated by awkward pacing, hard to endure speeches riddled with mediocre comedic touches, and haphazard action. Barely able to peek out of the epic shadow that is The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, An Unexpected Journey struggles to spread out 1/3 of a rather small novel into almost three hours of 48 FPS 3D. Get comfortable in The Shire, because there are two more films being squeezed from this book.
Nostalgia draws you into film right away with a hypnotizing combination of familiar music and the presence of Frodo (Elijah Wood) and the elder Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) engaged in family oriented banter in The Shire. However, once there, it takes Peter Jackson 45 minutes to convince Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) the young to shout out "I'm going on an adventure!" and run out of the safety of his Hobbit villiage. During this time there is singing, eating, and the cleaning of plates; as Fili, Kili; Oin, Gloin; Dwalin, Balin; Bifur, Bofur, Bombur; Dori, Nori, Ori; Thorin Oakenshield, and Gandalf attempt to convince Bilbo to man up and hit the open road with them.
Martin Freeman is fantastic as Bilbo. He's charming and sincere, but plays the character with a twinkle in his eye as he attempts to prove himself worthy of the journey to this group of battle tested dwarves. Jackson allows you plenty of time to get to know the characters due to an extensive amount of dialogue which seems to act as "rest areas" for all the strolling, wandering, and roaming. When there is action, and there is quite a lot, it seems to drag on a little to long as if you're replaying your favorite video game after you've already beaten it.
Ian Mckellen is his usual stalwart self as Gandalf. He's imposing and endearing with a little bit of that elderly crankiness that we've come to know and love. Although it did occur in a couple of instances during the LOTR Trilogy, Gandalf seems to conveniently disappear via stage left only reappear to save the rest of the crew from the most dire of situations. This occurs an annoying four times within the film. Reminds me of ancient Greek plays where one of the Gods would appear in a cloud and solve the human's problems while wrapping the story up in the neatest way possible.
The special effects are mind blowing, some of the best I have seen this movie going season, and the groundbreaking frame rate was not a problem. The best way to describe it is an LED television on steroids with an adrenaline shot. Although the high gloss experience does somehow transform even the on location shots into something that looks like a Los Angeles sound stage. The picturesque valley of Rivendell will unhinge your jaw and the Goblin Mountain Lair is dark and never-ending. Speaking of special effects, am I the only one growing tired of Gollum? A riddle off between Gollum and Bilbo was especially drawn out and tiresome.
It's hard to not wish for the grandeur and spectacle of the LOTR Trilogy when persevering through The Hobbit. The slow motion close ups of Theroin with wind blowing through his hair against a sunset almost seems humorous when compared to the importance of one of Aargon's speeches. "I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you I will not let the White City fall, nor our people fail." Therein lies the difference, Peter Jackson presented the world of The Lord Of The Rings as important and worth protecting, while The Hobbit seems like a parody of the world he meticulously created and cared for.