The Hobbit’s casting is honestly perfect. No one would of been better to play young Bilbo than Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage is great as Thorin. Thorin is by far the best new character. He is very well written with an arc that concludes the film excellently. The villain, Azog the Defiler, is solid. While he is not extremely complex, he does hold a threatening presence whenever he is on screen (although, he would be a lot more intimidating if he wasn’t CGI, but I’ll get to that later). The film peaks at two scenes. One of them is the game of riddles with Gollum. It is intense, amusing and gives us interesting backstory on the character and even makes him more sympathetic.
The other scene is probably my favourite in the film which is when the dwarves sing Misty Mountains. The lighting and music create an incredible atmosphere that isn’t found anywhere else in the film. It gives the quest a sense of dread and urgency and shows the audience the importance of the quest to the dwarves as they are emotionally motivated and attached to it. This is because the song is about them losing the Erebor. The extended edition is slightly better than the theatrical cut as it gives more character development that was definitely needed but… yeah, I am glad most of it was cut.
So, the CGI is one of the most controversial points about the film as there was little practical effects here unlike The Lord of the Rings and I completely see why. Lots of it looks fake. Some of it is fine but most of it is really noticeable. Also, it is not helped by the overly glossy filter this film has. Why is it so damn glossy? It looks dreadful! They even used CGI for the orcs when the original trilogy clearly shows that practically made orcs look so much more threatening. I know that this was changed probably because that this trilogy barely had any pre-production but I going to get into this on my The Battle of the Five Armies review. The Hobbit is also much more “cartoonish” than The Lord of the Rings. This sometimes makes this feel like it is from a completely different franchise. That Goblin cave escape sequence looks like it is from a cartoon. The dwarves are not great either.
Obviously, not all are going to be extremely complex characters that are completely unforgettable and stuff but all other than Thorin (Maybe, Balin?) are underwritten. The extended edition did improve this, but it still needed more. Overall, An Unexpected Journey is an enjoyable start to the adventure with some well written characters and moments but really falls flat on its face in some other areas. Still, it is far from being dreadful and it is great to see more of Middle Earth. It is far from the quality of The Lord of the Rings though, but it is still serviceable.