A not-very-long book stretched into three full-length movies? Part of me was dubious, but I trusted Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and all the others to respect the source material and deliver another great trilogy.
I was right. An Unexpected Journey added a lot of material to the story (from the beginning up until Thorin’s company is saved from the orcs by the Eagles and deposited in Beorn’s land) but it never feels like padding—well, except the present-day scene between Bilbo and Frodo, which I think was necessary to tie in to the earlier movies, but probably should have been moved to the third installment. Then again, maybe not; I don’t know exactly how the story will play out.
So in addition to the book’s basic story, we’re treated to: Azog the Goblin, just a footnote in the books, now an ongoing villain probably for the remainder of the trilogy; Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman returning for an meeting of the White Council, discussing the Necromancer and what to do about him; Sylvester McCoy making a surprisingly awesome appearance as the druid-wizard Radagast the Brown, going around on a sled pulled by giant rabbits and briefly facing off against a Nazgul; a flashback of Smaug attacking the Lonely Mountain, following an absolutely dazzling look at a Dwarf city in its full glory; and various little bits of world-building taken from appendices or later books.
All great stuff, and that’s not even counting familiar elements brought to life: our old friend Gollum, alternating between creepy-sweet and murderous-creepy; the heart-stoppingly poignant rendition of “Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold,” which I saw in the trailers but still got me; edge-of-your-seat action; the lovely shots of Hobbiton.
Yes. A beautiful movie, and a wonderful start to another masterpiece. Can’t wait for next year!