Another eventful journey in Middle Earth

GOBLINS, and trolls, and orcs - oh my?

These three fictional creatures (as well as a few stone giants) are enemies that get in the way of Thorin Oakenshield's band of merry dwarves (as well as a hobbit and wizard) as they journey through Middle Earth on a brand new adventure - and after nine years of waiting, director Peter Jackson has delivered.

Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first in what is now a trilogy (it was initially meant to be two films) that tells the story of Bilbo Baggins (uncle of Elijah Wood's Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings) and his quest to help reclaim the lost kingdom of Erebor for dwarfish royalty.

The film begins with the elderly Bilbo (played by the original trilogy's Ian Holm) telling us the story of dwarf king Thror, grandfather of Thorin (Richard Armitage), and his peaceful kingdom of Erebor - before it turns to darkness due to Thror's obsession over treasure which is then stolen by dreaded dragon Smaug in the Lonely Mountain (where Erebor once stood).

Years pass and Thror has long passed, with only Thorin left to reclaim his family's kingdom and that is where he requires the service of 11 dwarves, a wizard and a burglar - which is where Bilbo comes in (now played by Martin Freeman).

Soon his once peaceful and tranquil home of Bag End is filled with little men with bulbous noses as they create a plan of action to fight Smaug and get the treasure back.

At almost three hours long, An Unexpected Journey has included a number of characters and storylines not from the original 1937 text by J.R.R Tolkien, but as a form of continuity from the Rings' trilogy (and from the trilogy's appendices). It wouldn't be a Tolkien adaptation without Cate Blanchett's Galadriel who, with her looming and solitary presence, creates an almost creepy relationship with Ian McKellan's Gandalf.

Christopher Lee who, at 90 years of age, has reprised his role of fallen wizard Saruman the White is another unexpected addition as is Sylvester McCoy's Radagast the Brown and even Wood who, as the main protagonist of the Rings trilogy, appeared at the very beginning as his elderly uncle told him the story of his adventure (the film begins moments before the events of The Fellowship of the Ring).

The stand-out performance was, unsurprisingly, from Andy Serkis as Gollum.

The schizophrenic and demented creature underwent a battle of wits against Freeman in one of literature's most well-known chapters and the highlight of the film. The well-known discovery of the infamous 'one ring' by Freeman completely sets up the events of Rings perfectly - and Bilbo doesn't even know it yet.

His possession of the ring could also play a part in his future role in Smaug's lair in what could be part three.

Serkis, as well as McCoy, provides a number of comedic moments in the film which is great considering the amount of non-stop action and storyline.

In fact, McCoy's sub-plot could also have something to do with the events of Rings, with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from dark lord Sauron (keep in mind, also, that The Hobbit takes place some 60 years before the days of Frodo Baggins).

The score is haunting, the New Zealand backdrops stunning, but it's the unexpected action sequences that could frustrate the audience.

Just when you think the film could end with the heroes looking off to the horizon on their long journey ahead - it doesn't and the scene cuts to an army of orcs storming the camp.

An Unexpected Journey is a welcome addition to The Lord of the Rings universe, and with The Desolation of Smaug (part two) due next Boxing Day and There and Back Again (part three) out in 2014, fans will not have to wait long for the conclusion of one of literature's most loved texts of all time.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is out now in 3D and 2D at Reading Cinemas, Dubbo.

Rating: 4/5

anthony.cini@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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