Bilbo and other characters from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy return to the big screen in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” It’s another huge fantasy epic with some amazing though less realistic visuals that doesn’t quite measure up to the three previous films. In the wake of those spectacular pictures, it feels we've been down this road before and it’s not as interesting this time around.
A long opening sequence narrated by Ian Holm’s older Bilbo Baggins tells of a dragon ravishing the kingdom of the dwarves. Much of the narration is drowned out by the score and sound effects and the visuals play like a video game movie sequence. Elijah Wood as Frodo then unnecessarily visits his Uncle Bilbo and asks about his writing simply to tie in the “Rings” movies. Finally we go back 60 years to meet Bilbo as a younger hobbit (Martin Freeman from the BBC's "Sherlock"). He reluctantly sets out with a group of dwarves and the slightly younger wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon.
Freeman is perfectly cast as Bilbo and is the most joyous part of the film. He shows a genuine talent for comedy that comes from character with his highly expressive face and body and quirky movements and gestures. His intelligence and depth of character and emotion make him instantly likeable and someone we enjoy traveling with, if only the journey were more interesting.
The other new actors and characters lack the interest and excitement of those from the “Rings” films and the screenplay takes too long with too little. A major action sequence involving some battling mountains is forced into the story without any real purpose. Even the staunchest fans will have to chuckle and scratch their heads when some giant eagles leave our travelers a great distance from their ultimate destination. Just as the characters view the mountain from afar, our view of the movie is detached without any real emotional involvement.