13-Minute 'Hobbit' Featurette: Return to Middle-earth for 'An Unexpected Journey'

Bilbo visits Rivendell in 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey doesn't open in theaters for another week, but you'd be forgiven for thinking the film premieres tomorrow - what with all the headlines it's made of late, thanks to mixed early reviews and Jackson's response to criticisms of the picture's high frame-rate 3D presentation (to mention nothing of the numerous clips, images and posters that have flooded the 'Net since the Thanksgiving holiday frame).

One thing that everyone seems to agree on (with respect to Unexpected Journey) is it's a huge picture, be it in terms of budget, story, or sheer hype. Thus, Warner Bros. has unveiled an immense 13- minute featurette for the film - much like the studio did for The Dark Knight Rises over the summer - and it encompasses all the behind the scenes footage, glimpses at concept art, and (over?)enthusiastic interviews you could want.

Not surprisingly, the extended featurette puts an optimistic spin on what've been some points of contention for J.R.R. Tolkien purists and cinephiles alike throughout the buildup for Unexpected Journey. That includes the (at times, striking) variation in appearance among the film's dwarf characters, tonal differences between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings - and how, exactly, Tolkien's appendices for the history of Middle-earth (from the third Rings novel, Return of the King) are being interwoven with the Hobbit narrative foundation.

However, even taking into consideration the concerns expressed about Unexpected Journey to date, there is something infectious about the passion that Jackson and his collaborators have expressed throughout the promotion for the project; not just in terms of words, but with respect to the time and energy poured into every facet of the filmmaking process (as demonstrated throughout Jackson's production video series).

Bilbo visits Rivendell in 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) takes 'An Unexpected Journey'

That's all to say: Unexpected Journey may indeed have a number of issues, due to such factors as: the decision to adapt Tolkien's source material into three, rather than two, movies; a $250 million + budget that's allowed for an excess of set pieces, spectacle and story material; and, any purely-technical problems that are related to the 48 fps 3D format (look for all that to be addressed in detail when our Unexpected Journey review goes up next week).

However, at the end of day, it may just be that the (as Jackson jokes) twice-in-a-lifetime experience of getting to visit Middle-earth on the big screen is enough for us fans to push on through the rough early-going with Unexpected Journey (and maybe even enjoy it more than some of our fellow intrepid 'adventurers').


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in theaters (regular and IMAX 3D) on December 14th, 2012.

Source: Warner Bros.

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