The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Before I talk about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey let me give you some background on my experience with this series. I watched The Fellowship of the Ring around the time it hit video and quite liked it. I then watched the extended edition when it became available. I went on to The Two Towers extended edition which I got halfway through before stopping after the first disk. I loved The Two Towers but got busy and simply never got around to finishing the rest of that movie or starting The Return of the King. Around the time I was watching the LOTR movies I decided to give the books a try. I got about 30 pages in before giving up as I found them dense and not my cup of tea despite liking the movies.
My brother is a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings books and movies and wanted to see The Hobbit movies. I wasn't really interested at first but he convinced me to read book before watching the films by telling me it's a shorter and easier read than The Lord of the Rings. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, I was able to finish The Hobbit and quite enjoyed it. It is aimed for a younger audience than LOTR which makes it easier to get into but it's still a fun read . After reading the book the decision to split The Hobbit into three movies made even less sense to me, but I still wanted to see what director Peter Jackson had in mind.
I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at home so I saw it in HD and the regular frame rate. I recently watched The Desolation of Smaug in IMAX 3D with the high frame rate, but you'll have to wait for that post to see what I thought of it. While I liked The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I think it is the weakest of the LOTR and Hobbit movies thus far. The book is the story of Bilbo Baggins and his journey for a share of treasure guarded by Smaug the dragon. This is still the plot of the movie, but An Unexpected Journey serves more to set up the events of LOTR since those books weren't planned at the time J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit. Therefore An Unexpected Journey is not just an adaptation of the book, but also a direct prequel to Jackson's LOTR films. Gandalf and Thorin are featured more than in the books, and there are characters from LOTR (played by the same actors, except for Radagast the Brown who was not featured in Jackson's LOTR movies) present who do not appear in The Hobbit book. Once you get over this, the long run time, and the overuse of CGI, An Unexpected Journey is still a pretty entertaining flick. Jackson's choice to make his Hobbit movies more direct prequels to LOTR does not seem to be a cash grab but out of his love for Tolkien. In the book there are times when Gandalf goes off to do things and in the movie we actually get to see these adventures. Although we don't get to know all of the dwarves individually, Thorin and his motivations are fleshed out more than in the book. Despite the changes from the novel, many lines are used verbatim in the movie.
I still feel that adapting The Hobbit into two movies instead of three would've been fine and even improved the pacing a bit. Purists might not be thrilled with the changes (mostly additions to the story) but I think Jackson took advantage of a unique opportunity to put his own spin on The Hobbit by tying it in closer to his LOTR films. Those who liked Jackson's LOTR movies but never read the books won't have to worry about the changes. However, they may still feel it runs too long for the story, especially considering the fact that the LOTR got as many movies as The Hobbit, which is a much shorter book in comparison. But at the end of the day if you liked the LOTR movies, you will probably still enjoy this one, though probably not as much.