Today I’ll be reviewing the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey. I like to start off on a positive note, so I’ll begin by sharing what I like about the movie. Then I’ll share what I don’t like about it. After that, I’ll discuss my overall thoughts. I am not reviewing this from a film perspective. I’m reviewing the quality of the adaptation from book to movie, and I have the perspective of someone who read the book before seeing the movie. This review contains spoilers.
I like the addition of the prologue. I think it works well in inciting interest in the movie, especially because it doesn’t show Smaug right away. The movie also includes Tolkien’s introduction—the spiel about Hobbits and Hobbit holes—which I think is important because it’s such a classic story beginning. I also like that it keeps some of the original dialogue. I like it when I recognize lines from the book.
I like how the movie pays tribute to The Lord of the Rings movies because most people watched those before seeing The Hobbit movies. The inclusion of the scene from The Fellowship of the Ring is a nice touch as well as other aspects of the trilogy they incorporate into the movie.
I love the beginning where the dwarves show up at Bag End. It’s fun to watch, and it has added humor because you get to see Bilbo’s reactions to everything the dwarves do and say. His facial expressions are great.
I like that the movie provides greater character development. In my post about the worst things in The Hobbit, I talk about how the only character who gets good development is Bilbo. The movie helps remedy that issue by bringing unique qualities to each of the dwarves. Having actors helps bring the characters to life in a different way than books do. The movie also elaborates on some things the book glosses over like what the dwarves are doing and what they need Bilbo for.
There are some changes I noticed that seem unnecessary. One is during the prologue scene. Thorin and Balin are in Erebor when Smaug comes in the movie. In the book, they aren’t there, which is why they survive. Another is how the dwarves are captured by the trolls. In the book, they go looking for Bilbo—who’s hiding in a bush—and they enter the camp one at a time where they’re captured. In the movie, Bilbo gets caught, and all the dwarves enter the camp at the same time. I feel like this change negatively affects the portrayal of the characters. In Bilbo’s case he’s captured versus hiding. In the dwarves’ case, they stupidly barge in against an unknown enemy instead of sneaking into the camp one at a time. They also seem weaker when they are overtaken as a group instead of as individuals. Another change is Elrond’s reception of the dwarves. In one version he’s welcoming, and in the other, he doesn’t want them there. This alters Elrond’s character.
The change I have the biggest problem with is the addition of the orcs. I don’t like the addition of Azog the Defiler at all. I think it detracts from the main story and adds a lot of unnecessary screen time. In the book, most of that conflict is with goblins, and I don’t see why they needed to replace the goblins with orcs.
I also don’t like how disrespectful the dwarves are to the elves. That disrespect isn’t portrayed in the book, and it’s not portrayed when they’re guests at other places. I don’t see why they need to be disrespectful while staying in Rivendell. It makes me dislike the dwarves. I can see how it could be a part of their characterization, but if it isn’t in the book, why does it need to be in the movie?
Other than the unnecessary changes, especially the addition of the orcs, I think The Unexpected Journey is a good adaptation of the first part of The Hobbit. It builds upon the foundation Tolkien provided, and improves some aspects of the story.