Sixty years before the events surrounding the LOTR trilogy, a young Bilbo Baggins is reluctantly convinced to join Gandalf and a party of dwarves in their quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from a vicious dragon who killed their kinsmen and ravaged their homeland.
I didn't read the Rings books, but I'm an avid fan of fantasy. Fans like me go out of their way to find 'passable' fantasy flicks where we can, often times taking the awful with the good. It's a great genre to read, but film hasn't exactly been kind. Peter Jackson changed all that. Aside from the ridiculous amount of endings in RETURN OF THE KING, I loved the extended versions of the LOTR trilogy and would count these three films as not only the best fantasy film has to offer, but also how to "do it right". That said, who better than PJ to bring us back to Middle Earth for another three part adventure? Do I think we needed three films to convey this story? Probably not, but the pacing of this one was fine by me (and trust me, I was expecting otherwise) and if the other two fair as well as this one did in that department, I'd have to say I agree with this decision.
So the pacing was fine, but what about the 48 FPS you ask? Again, I went in expecting the worst, but I have to say I was blown away. The best way to explain 48 FPS (frames per second if you didn't know) is as follows: if you've bought one of the newest brands of TVs over the past year, a Quattron for example, then you've experienced the overly defined, camcorder/soap opera 'look'. I'll admit it takes some getting used to, but I've grown to like it. The 3D 48 FPS takes that technology and throws it into overdrive with a smoother, much more colorfully-vivid transition that makes you feel like you're actually there. Seriously. When they were being chased under the mountain by all those goblins, it felt as though they could leap off the screen at any time. I highly recommend you see it like this, but sadly, if you haven't had the opportunity to 'get used' to this technology and are hitting it for the first time, you'll no doubt be a little bothered by it at first.
The next issue is the acting and or actors involved. The returning cast, led by the always awesome Ian McKellen, were a real treat. For years, continuations of films and TV shows have been plagued by new faces playing the original characters, and sure, ten years isn't that long of a gap, but I've seen it happen and it sucks. Not so here (for the most part) as Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman and Gollum are played the by same actors who all look fantastic (Cate Blanchett was looking especially delicious). Hell, we even get to see Ian Holm (old Bilbo) and Elijah Wood (Frodo) for a little at the beginning. This added tremendous flavor for me as a fan of the series. I particularly loved watching Christopher Lee (can you believe he's ninety years old) acting all innocent like he has no idea what's going on in Murkwood--priceless. I enjoyed Martin Freeman's Bilbo (especially his scene with Gollum) and the dwarves weren't nearly as annoying as I thought they would be, Thorin in particular was a cool as hell leader.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY falls short by comparison to the original trilogy in only one department. The tone. I remember trying to read THE HOBBIT when I was in grade nine and after one page put it down thinking it sounded too childish. The movie isn't that bad, but at no point did I ever feel anyone was in mortal danger and considering some of the things they had to endure, I should have. This is only a minor complaint, as I'm not sure how this story ends or who dies (if anyone), but aside from that, the scenery was breathtaking (especially Rivendell, the dwarven city and the goblin cavern), the makeup and effects were stellar, the story was fun and the action scenes were epic. There isn't much to complain about here as far as I'm concerned, so this makes the perfect flick for the holidays and I can't wait to see the next one. PS: It would've been nice to actually see Smaug. Damn you for making me wait another year Peter Jackson. Damn you.