Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Ken Stott, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Sylvester McCoy, Barry Humphries, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Mark Hadlow, Dean O’ Gorman, Aiden Turner, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, Aiden Turner.
All good things come in three, although with Peter Jackson, it could turn out to be six is the magic number. Somewhere at the back of that great mind of his; he must have always known that to match the drama and spectacle of The Lord of the Rings, he would have to turn a book that can read in about three hours into a franchise worthy of past glories. In the opening saga to the The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, he and Guillermo del Toro deliver and in some majestic style.
For the fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal book, the opening may seem strange, somewhere along the line the films merge and blur. Gone is the childlike opening and instead the audience is re-introduced to Frodo and Bilbo characters and even though it has been well over a decade since Ian Holm and Elijah Wood first stood inside the Hobbit hole, they fitted back into those over size Hobbit feet and within minutes the magic was back.
J.R.R. Tolkien, the man who was born in South Africa and grew up as child in the south of Birmingham could never have imagined the cultural impact that these films have had. In the 75 years since the publication of The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien’s work has become so engrained into the psyche of all those who have read him that these films have added so much more to life.
This new film sees the legend of Bilbo Baggins start and in Martin Freeman, the producers and makers of the film have found the definitive version. His incredible style has been honed over many years and with the memories of the fantastic B.B.C. adaptation of Sherlock Holmes still fresh in the mind, it is no wonder that this self effacing actor would be cast as the shy Hobbit.
There are some stunning performances within this almighty cast, none the least the ever impressive Sir Ian McKellen who reprises his much loved role as Gandalf the Grey, Richard Armitage as the deposed dwarf King Thorin Oakenshield who has the same gravitas on cinematic screens as he did in television programmes such as Spooks and Robin Hood is an absolute joy to watch and Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown Wizard is a revelation and an inspired choice by the makers of the film.
However, by far the outstanding glory of the film belongs to the imagination and resilience of Andy Serkis as Gollum, his treatment and pain staking motion capture of the insane ring carrier marks this talented actor as one of the finest of the 21st century.
An outstanding beginning to what should be a wonderful and much loved trilogy.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be showing at F.A.C.T. Liverpool until early January 2013.
Ian D. Hall