(WARNING: SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS REVIEW)
When I heard that The Hobbit was being split up into three movies to create a trilogy, I had several worries when I left to go see the movie.
I was concerned that the book did not have sufficient scope to merit a trilogy, but this fear turned out to be unfounded. Peter Jackson incorporated material from the appendices of The Return of the King, along with material that is implied in the introduction and text of the Hobbit, to further flesh out the history of the Dwarves. The movie opens with Bilbo explaining the story of the lost kingdom of Erebor, the ancient home carved into the roots of the Lonely Mountain, where the Dwarves delved down to find the Arkenstone, the heart of the mountain.
The pride and love that the Dwarves feel for their lost home is felt piercingly in this installment of the Hobbit, and their quest is the easier to understand and sympathize with for it.
The enmity that the Dwarves hold toward the Mirkwood Elves is also covered in greater depth, showing how Thranduriel did not come to the aid of the Dwarves of Durin when Smaug lay waste to their home, thus providing a stronger undercurrent of unrest to the story.
The story of Thorin's surname, Oakenshield, is explained as well. The pale orc Azog that Thorin fought with only a makeshift shield of oak in order to reclaim Moria (an attempt that fails) becomes a major antagonist in the movie, lending an urgency to the movie that would have been lacking before. The resurgence of the Necromancer is also given more weight, since the White Council, made up of Gandalf, Galadrial, Saruman, and Elrond, meet in Rivendell in order to discuss the growing threat, after Radagast the Brown tells Gandalf that the diseased Mirkwood is a result of the necromancer gaining more power.
One of my fears concerning this installment of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey lay in the way the filmmakers chose to split up the book: I was afraid that the resulting film would feel choppy, and the ending would be rushed, lacking any closure.
However, this was not the case, for Bilbo's development from a fellow who "looks more like a grocer than a burglar" to a real member of the Company is explored in the movie.
"Nasty uncomfortable things adventures. Make you late for dinner!"
He is introduced as fearing the idea of adventures, but when the Dwarves awake his hidden adventurousness, he runs after the company, though he does forget his pocket handkerchief. Soon afterward, when they make camp for the night, Fili and Kili scare Bilbo by telling him that orcs are nearby, resulting in Thorin's dismissal of Bilbo as "not really belonging to the company."
This conversation leads Bilbo to try and prove himself by sneaking into the camp of three churlish trolls in order to rescue some captured ponies, an endeavor that nearly results in the entire company being killed and eaten. Thorin continues to dismiss Bilbo, but slowly, his realization of Bilbo's worth builds, a character development arc that encapsulates the story and gives the entire movie a directness, as well as developing a theme of the small and undervalued finding their inner strength, a theme that was prevalent in the Lord of the Rings.
Bilbo even leaps to save Thorin after the Dwarf leader is injured and threatened by Azog with beheading, an act of bravery that prompts Thorin to rescind his previous words of rejection and apologizes to Bilbo.
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This final scene brings the narrative full circle, and brings the story to a natural close. I loved The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and look forward eagerly to the next installment.
They had a really cool hobbit-hole at the theatre, so of course I had to try the door.