As a faithful fan of good literary works, it only seems fair that my first post is a review of the first adaption of a much-loved children's fantasy: The Hobbit. Much anticipation has built up ever since it was rumored, and then stated, that the story was going to be made into a movie. And then a two-parter. And now, a three-parter. I happen to be extremely happy with the idea of using the appendices as additional material. Personally I believe it will make for a more powerful story.
But lets start at the beginning, which was a family's most excited outing to the theater, on Dec 14th, 2012...
Munching candy alongside relatives, I avidly watched the screen for the first glimpse of the world's return to Middle Earth. Landscapes and new places swept across the screen, and a story began by the aging Bilbo. The story of how he came to be an adventurer—and therefore, what had initially happened to others, which resulted in his later involvement.
As enthralled with the incredible action and artistry of the movie, and the beautiful nostalgia of the Shire, I felt that the beginning was choppy. I instinctively felt that much of the beginning was cut for length—I did not feel as re-immersed in the Shire as I would have liked. And directly after the epic tragedy that Bilbo narrates in the beginning, the utter comedy of the next scenes seems almost unnatural. I felt that a smoother transition was needed.
But nonetheless, there was still that precious love for the characters, especially Bilbo, and the believability of this world they are in. And right from the start, there is no doubt in the viewer's mind that Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, incarnate. His performance is incredible, and remarkably praise-worthy. There was great amusement at Bilbo's predicament with the unexpected party of dwarves, and the following scenes. Then there is the sense ofthe love for home, with the Mountain song of the dwarves, which is a scene I will always remember.
But what was the great turning point in the beginning is Bilbo's last-minute dash for his one chance for adventure—something he has shunned since becoming a “proper” hobbit, and as Gandalf pointed out, used to long for as a young boy. Everyone in life longs for that chance to do something out of the blue, crazy, adventurous. Out into the wide, wild, excited and dangerous world.
And thus we are swept into the quest. I will admit here that much of the pace seemed slow, but with so much action and comedy happening, it was too fun to complain about. Favored scenes in the book were well done, and the dwarves were everything one could hope for. Unique, but undoubtedly stalwartly dwarfish. The slower bits seemed mostly due to the way Radagast was introduced; who, though an interesting addition, seemed to have a bit of strange, distracting effect. It seemed to be more Potter-esque, than Middle Earth. I felt like I couldn't exactly take him seriously, as one of the Five Wizards. But again, he still served as a plot-point in the scheme of events, and almost made up for his Potter-esqueness in his last scene, where I could then fully root for him.
Now for another of the major characters: Thorin. Even though he is significantly younger than in the book, he is played by a most capable actor, Richard Armitage, who lends him just the right amount of pride, tragic history, and heart. And as we all know, an amount of prickly snobbishness. He is a powerful character, one that we can respect and admire. He is the king waiting to reclaim his lost homeland, and we can't help but wish we could fight by his side.
Now something must be said of the orcs. There is a new addition, one Azog. The Pale Orc. This was an impressive figure for me, something I was really intrigued with. But I honestly felt that his acting felt more in line with a gangster alien from Star Trek, than a Middle Earth orc—but nevertheless, I found his purpose (and appearance) as Thorin's nemesis very cool. It adds a new dimension to the traditional story.
The action of the movie is fast and exciting, certainly one of its top strong points, along with the strong characters. Every time the dwarves rushed on-screen, yelling and wielding their mighty weapons, I couldn't help but want to cheer and whoop. It never got old, or seemed overdone. And it was mixed with comedy, but just enough to be still taken seriously.
A turning point is Rivendell, a place which was happily reintroduced to Tolkien fans in all its beauty and grandeur. And with the amusing appearance of one elf whom fans have come to call “Figwit”, as in “Frodo-is-great,-who-is-that?” Don't ask me how it got started. I have no idea, but it is something many of us find extremely amusing, and we are happy to see our “Figwit”, aka Lindir, actually having some lines in this movie.
Here we see the Council for the first time, and I must say, it was interesting to see Saruman without such a long beard, and not as stuck-up. (Although disapproving of Radagast, with his mushrooms and rabbits). Lady Galadriel was as enchanting as ever. The Council scene, however, didn't seem to have the gravitas that it needed, but perhaps that is just me. A personal favorite part was the personal conversation between Galadriel and Gandalf, which I thought had a significant, core story-point. The fact that the things of this world aren't necessarily changed by those with great power, but the little people, with their little kindnesses, the choices they make everyday. Little people such as Bilbo Baggins: and it is his choice, later on as fans know, that changes the course of Middle Earth history, stretching into The Lord of the Rings.
As I said before from Rivendell the pace picked up dramatically. Goblin-Town was incredible in its dimension and action, an terrific feast with sudden turns. The Goblin King was sufficiently revolting, and the escape of the dwarves breathtaking. But special attention must be given to the one scene many of us have been so excited about...Riddles in the Dark.
Gollum's reappearance was an ecstatic event for us Smeagol-lovers. And I can sincerely say this—the Riddles in the Dark scene was all we could hope it to be. It was faithfully done, with Gollum being his incredible, believable, deluded self. Cute and raving and terrifying in turns. Comedy one moment, terror the next. Andy Serkis's job is a welcome, stellar performance. The riddles were the loved ones from the book, and the game between Bilbo and Gollum was riveting. I wanted to laugh and hold my breath in turns.
And the moment of Bilbo's decision, (though I thought something about it a bit off—I think it didn't quite capture the magnitude of Gollum's utter loss of the Ring) when he spares Gollum's life—it was precious. I was so proud. The humanness on the faces of each, the understanding that Bilbo realizes, it is there, believable, and inciting our respect and admiration. For me personally, it was one of the best moments.
At this point I thought the movie was fast coming to its end, but I was in for a surprise, and one that made the whole event so enthralling, I was ready for another viewing immediately afterward. Here the creativity and skill of Peter Jackson, Boyens, and Walsh really come in. The climax. A climax of stated and proved loyalties amid fire and terror, defending one another, and unabated excitement. A dramatic and heart-warming end that forges friendships forever, and leaves the viewer wishing the second installment was already upon us. But alas, we must wait another year. I will not spoil it for you.
Promises have been made. Bilbo and Thorin, now stalwart friends, and Gandalf and company, are within sight of the Mountain. Further adventure awaits us. Next year—next year I will be waiting again, because, even with its few faults, The Hobbit was one incredible ride. I cannot wait to go again.
And the eye of the dragon is watching.
The cinematography, artistry, and acting of The Hobbit was as incredible as ever. I saw it in standard 24fps, and thought it was a beautiful picture. I wouldn't mind seeing it in the 48. I am open to all new advances in the cinema world.
The music of The Hobbit had some nostalgic, familiar themes from The Lord of the Rings, but something I noticed, with express exception of the dwarves' Mountain song, (which I was absolutely gripped by, and was one of my favorite parts) was that I didn't feel quite as swept up in the music as I had with The Lord of the Rings. But that is not to say it was not good. Howard Shore is still an incredible musical artist, and the music was true to the Middle Earth tones. It was still beautiful, and exciting. I look forward to hearing the soundtracks for the following installments.