Fans of Tolkien have been holding their breath for the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, and have all let it out in a sigh of relief. The film, which was again directed by Peter Jackson, was a fantastic translation from the book. You will not be disappointed.
It is difficult for anyone reviewing this film not to compare it to its predecessors, and yet it has to be done.
Visually, the film is full of the epic landscapes we saw in the first three films. It includes many sets that you will be able to recognise, as well as a good few characters. Gollum is the main character to notice. Although he is played by the same man (Andy Serkis), the technology that created him has improved, and now we can see every facial expression in huge detail. Serkis's acting is, as always, impeccable, and he has played Gollum very well. He is younger here, and is not yet bitter and damaged. Instead we see his split personality and his love of the ring shine out, but also his playfulness and trusting nature that is all but gone in later years.
In comparison to the book, the film follows the plot smoothly and tells the story in acute, and accurate, detail. Even the embellishments fall in line with the plot of The Hobbit. There are some differences, but none that should offend a fan of the book. It has a very different feel to the Lord of the Rings. Originally written for Tolkien's children, the book is much more light hearted. It has all the action we would expect, but we find comic relief in the company of dwarves, and in the Hobbit himself, Bilbo Baggins.
The cast is full of English actors; Ian McKellen of course, Richard Armitage (Robin Hood), Aiden Turner (Being Human), James Nesbitt (Bloody Sunday) and Ken Stott, to name a few. But the actor that was entirely perfect for his role was, of course, Martin Freeman (Sherlock) who played Bilbo Baggins. There is something about the way that he is uppity and yet valiant, not quite brave but certainly willing to give it a go and at the beginning somewhat unlikeable; it is so much like the character in the book. You find yourself laughing at his predicament, at his conversations with others. At the beginning he is a character to ridicule, but as this film goes on, you soon learn that there is more to him than meets the eye.
So what's next? This is only the first part of the trilogy, the other two being The Desolation of Smaug, and There and Back Again (where we can meet the character voiced by Freeman's Sherlock costar, Benedict Cumberbatch). We can look forward to these within the next two years, and with any luck they will follow on in the footsteps of An Unexpected Journey.
Five out of Five. It was a truly enjoyable film, and one that can be watched over and over.