Film: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ (2012)

Warner Bros.

There’s a familiarity to Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first installment of the movie trilogy based on the J.R.R. Tolkien book that preceded “The Lord of the Rings.” That lived-in quality has everything to do with the hero protocol which requires the protagonist’s upheaval from his geographic roots and subsequent trek to a danger-filled far-off land. As it turns out, the young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a shy, private, stuck-in-the-mud hobbit, is the least likely person to want to leave the Shire.

But adventure indeed calls. The wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) proposes that Bilbo, who has never used a sword in his life, help a group of Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), take back their homeland Erebor. Resting within Lonely Mountain, whose innards are full of gold and gemstones, Erebor is now inhabited by the dragon Smaug – seen here only in flashes – who’s responsible for the annihilation.

The hero’s journey – taken on here by Bilbo, and in the future, in “LOTR” by Frodo (Elijah Wood) – is tied to the Sun, which fuels confidence, self-mastery and the glory that awaits. Jupiter – expansion, education and travel – is a not uncommon Solar companion.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is essentially a prologue – with a riveting riddle-centric episode, involving a certain gold ring, between Bilbo and the schizoid Gollum (Andy Serkis) – that sets up the real business of liberating Erebor over the next two parts of the trilogy. Although the first part contains a fair share of action scenes, captures and rescues, its most delectably ominous lure is the clearly depicted archetypal treasure at the bottom of the pit. The more nightmarishly Jackson manages to paint the penetration and descent into Erebor, the greater the pay-off for the hero. Hey, it worked big time with Mordor.

The film’s high frame rate (HFR) of 48 frames per second adds crispness to the visuals, but sometimes obliterates a filmic look for what looks like video.

Rating: ☉♃ (Sun/Jupiter)

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