Director Peter Jackson makes a triumphant return to the world of Middle Earth with his fourth interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy-based series with The Hobbit-- here divided into three stories to accompany the original Lord of the Rings trilogy as a brand new trilogy. As the subtitle suggests, this is the unexpected journey for young adult Bilbo Baggins (originally played by Ian Holm and makes a brief appearance along with Elijah Wood here for added consistency and further nerd appreciation) and how he gets mixed up with a ragtag team of dwarves all heading toward a Lonely Mountain to reclaim their homeland from a fearsome dragon.
Along for this surprise excursion is Gandalf the Grey (played by the ever assured Sir Ian McKellan), instructing Martin Freeman's Bilbo the ropes in how to survive a trip outside the Shire without the comforts of home and without the comforts of Bilbo's empty excuses. The film reveals many wonderful reprises including Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis in the infamous role of Gollum once again, and the ethereal Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. Revisiting a mythological version of England and northern Europe is a welcomed reunion complete with outstanding picturesque landscapes created by Weta Effects, remarkable photography by LOTR alumni Director of Photography Andrew Lesnie, and of course a continuation in musical themes by composer Howard Shore.
The story does not quite have the same urgency and dominating sense of doom the original films possessed, but screenwriters Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, and Jackson do a good job keeping the tension going when they need to as well as keeping the fun consistent. A journey should always be a fun, learning venture into the unknown.