The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie poster. Unexpected in unexpected ways.

Ten years ago we watched The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and began asking ourselves when Peter Jackson would give us the adventures of Bilbo Baggins now that the trilogy had ended. It was clear then that no one else should be allowed to touch Middle Earth and the characters that dwell there. Now that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is finally here the bar is raised high and the results should as expected. Which leaves this reviewer a little disappointed.

In case you aren't aware of the story, The Hobbit is the prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It is a fascinating book full of marvelous characters and gives us the history of how the ring came to belong to Frodo's Uncle Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). The great wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) has volunteered Bilbo to help the Dwarfs in their quest to reclaim their home. Both sides are unhappy with this merger yet they strike an accord and set off. The idea of a Hobbit on a trek with the wizard Gandalf, and a pack of Dwarves; fighting Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, and other such nonsense, makes for great movie adaptation.

What fans needed from Jackson more than anything was the beauty of the shire, the majesty of the other worlds, and the darkness of middle earth. The cinematography in the LOTR Trilogy was breathtaking in a time when 3D was unheard of in the mainstream arena. Now it seems this film relied heavily on 3D elements as if that would distract us from the lack of landscape. Most of the 3 hours had the characters walking around in what seemed like a PBS stage production or a cardboard maze. I kept wondering if Jackson was going to lead us to a place that suddenly exploded on screen, sort of like in Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the black and white door to a land of color. But it never arrived.

The first thought was that Peter was making this for a different audience. The book is certainly geared to younger readers than the LOTR. So maybe the playful, almost Saturday morning cartoon sets and antics were part of the plan. But then when the Orcs show up and the battles occur there is no question that they are too graphic and violent for anyone under 14. So the two worlds never seem to gel. The details given to the inhabitants of middle earth are incredible. They are fluid and dripping with grossness. I wanted that same detail in the lands traveled on in the journey.

Though the story, dialogue, and characters of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey are easily a timid PG, the action, violence, peril and graphic imagery of the Orcs elevates it to a PG-13. You certainly need to know your kids with this one. I give it 3.5 out of 5 furry feat. Yes the story is still as enchanting and Freeman is the perfect Bilbo. The nearly three hours fly by as you watch them all encounter trial after trial. It is certainly a film worth seeing but you have to go in understanding that, like the little Hobbit, you might find it an unexpected journey.

Matt Mungle

Review copyright 2013 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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