Picking up where his great fantasy epic trilogy adaptation Lord of the Rings rested its laurels, cinematic wizard in his own right Peter Jackson weaves another mesmerizing, if overlong, foray into the magical Middle Earth. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is really everything a fan could ever have wished for in an epic modern visualization of J.R.R. Tolkien's world of wizards, gnomes, and warriors.
Martin Freeman (so fun in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, another filmization of a cult fantasy novel) makes for an ideal Bilbo, the younger version of the character portrayed by Ian Holm in the trilogy. Jackson relishes each and every step of his remarkable journey of self discovery. We can feel Jackson's sheer joy at being able to return to his cherished Tolkien universe. It's hard not to be swept up along with him. Even though Phillippa Boyens and Fran Walsh's script may be way too long and inclusive of a lot of minor details which would have been better left out, I for one am glad that they tackled the project the way that they did.
Coming off of the triumphant double whammy of the masterpieces King Kong and The Lovely Bones, Jackson & co. have artistic license to be way self indulgent in both style and substance. An expert cast is in line with his old team of production magicians; art-directors, visual effects artists, sound designers, costume designers, et al, are in their element once againn, aiding their maestro innumerably in his quest for enchantment.
Jabez Olssen does a magnificent job of sewing it all together; admittedly, 45 minutes could have been trimmed, but I was nonetheless transported all the more for its length. Andrew Lesnie's camera is a magic lantern once more illuminating Tolkien's feverish discoveries by way of Jackson's cinematic realizations, and Howard Shore constructs a gorgeously alive piece of music which stands apart from the lush soundscape of his career defining work on the trilogy.
What we have here is a shining example of the best studio fantasy films we've seen in some while. Simultaneously, we have a delightful continuation of Peter Jackson's search for the glory and soul of modern visual effects within narrative filmmaking.