‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ vs. ‘Fellowship of the Ring’

Published 2 years ago by , Updated December 19th, 2012 at 6:56 am,

hobbit unexpected journey fellowship ring The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey vs. Fellowship of the Ring

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a blockbuster landmark achievement. It demonstrated that the moviegoing masses are willing to tolerate (nay, embrace) sprawling tentpole productions that run some 3 hours long and are geared heavily towards geek crowds. Jackson returns to Middle-earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (read our review) and today we’re going to examine how much has (and has not) changed in the filmmaker’s approach to adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s literature over the decade since his Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy.

So far, much of the discussion concerning Hobbit (pun not intended) has centered on the first installment’s (controversial) use of HFR (48 fps) 3D; not to mention, differences in tone and style that have left numerous critics – who were big fans of Jackson’s Rings films – grumbling that An Unexpected Journey is a disappointment (as evidenced by an okay 65% Fresh score and 6.4/10 average rating on Rotten Tomatoes). However, the film also received an “A” CinemaScore over its opening weekend; likewise, several members of the Screen Rant staff (full confession: that includes this writer) agree: Jackson successfully brought us home to Middle-earth. This range of opinion was evident among our editors in the recent Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Feel free to jump ahead to the poll at the conclusion of this article, in case your mind is already made up as to whether An Unexpected Journey is a weaker, equal or better introduction to Middle-earth than Fellowship of the Ring. Everyone else? Keep reading, as we dive into important qualities of both films, beginning with the two famous ring-bearer halflings: Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.


The Characters

bilbo frodo journey fellowship The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey vs. Fellowship of the Ring

Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), as introduced in Fellowship, is a wide-eyed and good-hearted hobbit who demonstrates immense courage in the face of overwhelming danger. He’s also an unwilling adventurer at his core, who might’ve been content to never leave his home. However, Frodo becomes an unlikely savior for Middle-earth and is essentially forced to endure the burden of carrying The One Ring of Power – given his unprecedented resilience to its influence – despite being both physically and mentally-unfit for the task.

Young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) in An Unexpected Journey has more personality than Frodo. He’s fussy, proper and often self-concerned, yet enters dangerous situations with but a little encouragement (and sometimes, none). Bilbo endures taunts and disdain from his dwarf peers to become an important player on their quest; indeed, Bilbo ultimately chooses to accept the responsibility of helping Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his kin reclaim their home, rather than having the task forced upon him.

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Thorin Oakenshield Richard Armitage 570x245 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey vs. Fellowship of the Ring

Richard Armitage in ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

Speaking of Thorin: the hardened Dwarf is (arguably) as much a protagonist in An Unexpected Journey as Bilbo. Flashbacks illustrate how he came to be a monastic and cynical warrior in the present; despite his accomplishments, Thorin is humble and places his faith in Dwarfs whom he admires for their gusto (not because they are the strongest and wisest). Moreover, Thorin still possesses an optimistic spirit, which (like Bilbo) inspires him to accept the daunting challenge of reclaiming the Lonely Mountain from Smaug – ultimately, of his own free will.

That’s all to say: Fellowship (from a protagonist perspective) is about acceptance of destiny thust upon you – a theme echoed in subsequent Rings films, as when Aragorn becomes King – and An Unexpected Journey deals with choosing a destiny and accepting the responsibility that comes with it. In a way, the latter presents a more timely dilemma; namely, whether to take it upon oneself to better the world (when presented the chance) or simply continue to make your way in life.

Gollum in The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey 570x245 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey vs. Fellowship of the Ring

Andy Serkis returns as Gollum in ‘An Unexpected Journey’

As for the remainder of the cast: Ian McKellen captivates in both films, offering two connected (but distinguishable) portrayals of Gandalf the Grey. Similarly, both An Unexpected Journey and Fellowship of the Ring have supporting characters that hit the bullseye – in particular, Andy Serkis as mo-cap Gollum in The Hobbit and Sean Astin as Samwise in Fellowship – while others Middle-eartheans possess either a satisfactory or flat presence (sorry, Orlando Bloom as Legolas). Thus, these films are evenly-matched in this department (for this writer, anyway).


WINNER: An Unexpected Journey, for more nuanced protagonist(s) and their relatable personal journeys.


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  1. the hobbit isnt worthy of licking fotr’s boots ….still by far the greatest of lot …it gave you a sense of realism that somehow this could of happened in the past ……10/10…..oh ps not like giant bunney rabbits pulling sleighs ..

    • John!Johnny!Johny boy!Based solely on your comments…Your name here should be John The Drunk!Because your comment made absolutely zero sense if any!

      • He doesn’t seem drunk, but you do. I completely agree with his comment. It’s like the difference between the Tyrannosaurus in Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” and the Tyrannosaurus in the original Jurassic park. One looks real, like it is actually happening right in front of you, and the other looks like CGI, like it is just a bunch of animation. Not to mention all the big falls and physically unrealistic scenes where characters get up without a scratch gives the Hobbit more similarity to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies than to Fellowship of the Ring…

  2. Most of the problems I have are little, nit picky things.They changed a whole hell of a lot to make it just like Lord of the Rings. Azog hunting the dwarfs, needless action scenes, the side story of the bird poop guy and the sense of impending doom of necromancer and a few others.

    Also, a lot of the dwarfs don’t look like their book descriptions, which is kind of annoying, but Fili bothered me the most. He doesn’t even look like a dwarf, like not even close. I mean, wouldn’t someone on the set just have said, “Yo, Fili doesn’t look like a Dwarf. Why doesn’t he have a beard or a big nose? His brother looks like a dwarf so he can’t be a secret elf spy or something like that. There is a reason for it right? It doesn’t really make sense to have one dwarf not look like all the other dwarfs when you spent so much time with the beards and makeup already. Did we run out or something? Cause I mean, there has to be a good reason cause people are probably going to notice something like that. And I’m not just talking about the nit picky die hard fans, anyone with eyes can see that guy doesn’t look AT ALL like any of the other dwarfs. I dunno, just seems kind of sloppy to me.”

    It was obvious they were trying to make it a huge block buster, which I just didn’t like. That being said, I can see why a lot of people did like it. It tied in a lot with LOTR, lots of action, cool effects. But to me it was obvious that The Hobbit was just a cash cow that they were doing everything they could to bleed dry.

  3. Gandalf says Lotr is the best you fools.!

  4. From my viewpoint, The Hobbit is a disgrace to the LOTR trilogy, especially after 10 years. I had to re-watch The Fellowship (in standard DVD format unlike the Super HD X 5 zillion megapixel IMAX 3D blah blah Hobbit version) just to be sure I wasn’t overreacting. The first five minutes of The Fellowship validated my disdain for The Hobbit.

    Hopefully, the next installments will be a better.