I’ll admit that upon hearing that The Hobbit, a tiny little book, was being turned into three movies, I was a bit skeptical. I probably should have just put my faith in Peter Jackson, because the first film in the trilogy is fantastic.
I must start this review, however, by stating that if you have not read the book by J.R.R. Tolkien, you might want to stop reading this review. I will be talking a little bit about scenes from the book and how they fared in the film. But I will try not to spoil the new material.
The Hobbit actually opens with the older Bilbo, the one we know from the previous films. It’s nice to see Ian Holm (as well as another familiar face) as he begins to tell his story – the happenings of the story of The Hobbit. This is a wonderful way to begin the film, as not only do we get to be sentimental about the other films we loved, but we also see the comparison between old Bilbo (Holm) and younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman). To say that Freeman MUST be a time traveling young version of Holm is an understatement. The two men are BOTH Bilbo and that’s a very good thing. But I’ve never doubted Freeman’s acting – I’ve been a longtime fan.
Of course, then Gandalf (Ian McKellan) shows up, along with a bevy of dwarves and the adventure begins.
But first, the dwarves sing the Misty Mountain song. And I got goosebumps. It is unbelievably beautiful and moving. No wonder Bilbo finally decided to go with them. Beneath their gruff exteriors are very old and complex souls.
So let’s talk about the dwarves. When I first read The Hobbit, I never imagined they could be handsome. But when you’re looking at actors like Richard Armitage, Aiden Turner and Dean O’Gorman, you won’t complain.Turner, in particular, gets a lot of screen time, and I’m sure that this is intentional. But I think the casting of young hot actors was intentional in knowing what these particular characters have in store for them (again, this is if you’ve read the book). The rest of the dwarf group is equally as well cast, including James Nesbitt, who was unrecognizable under his dwarfish get-up.
For you Doctor Who fans, 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy also gets a bit of screen time as the wacky Radagast. He’s perfectly cast in the role, something I don’t recall from the books. And I really liked seeing him play opposite the likes of McKellan. Obviously, he easily held his own. I’ll admit I was whispering “It’s the Doctor!” during the course of many of his scenes.
Freeman is wonderful as Bilbo. Watching him as delightful as watching Elijah Wood’s Frodo, maybe even more so, since this is where Middle Earth’s story begins. And seeing him with Gandalf as a young Hobbit is especially endearing, probably because he and McKellan seem to share a wonderful chemistry that, at times, is downright comic.
Speaking of comedy, there are plenty of moments of it in the movie. But it doesn’t feel cheap or thrown together. It’s all part of the story that has you laughing one moment, fearful the next and then crying five minutes later. You’ll go through a roller coaster ride of emotions, but it’s so real, you can’t help but to appreciate the heart that this movie has.
Speaking of scenes, let’s talk about scenery. New Zealand has somehow become even more beautiful as Middle Earth than I ever thought possible. Jackson captures its sweeping vistas and creates a world that doesn’t seem like it ever could be real (although much of it actually is). Add into that special effects that create an even more expansive Rivendell and mountains unlike anything on our earth, and your mind may be appropriately blown.
But the whole movie is sort of mind blowing. Again, after hearing that this small book was being stretched into three films, I had set my expectations low. I expected the films to be a bit boring, maybe even drag quite a bit, but I could not have been more wrong. By the time this movie ended, I wanted even more story because I was not ready to leave Middle Earth (and wait for the next movie in the trilogy). Jackson does Tolkien proud with the additional story that he’s given us and it all feels true to the original.
The action itself was of the sort that even though I’d read the book, I honestly was still holding my breath through much of it. Whether it was the amazing battle with the trolls in their underground city or the battle with orcs that has the dwarves dangling off of a tree that’s hanging off of a cliff, I could not close my eyes once for fear of missing something. It was much more non-stop than I had expected and quite the thrill ride.
But my absolute favorite scene in the film The Hobbit is actually my favorite scene in the book, as well. Jackson captured it so utterly perfectly that I have to mention it here. It’s when Bilbo gets the ring (there was a chorus of “don’t do it!” in the theater when it occurred) and has his meeting with Gollum. Obviously, Jackson read my mind because it was exactly the way I’d envisioned it when I first read it. It was utter perfection.
Finally, I will mention that I attended a 2D showing of the film. I’ve always believed that if a film isn’t good in 2D, 3D isn’t going to make it any better (although Hollywood is somehow under the delusion that it will). I’m still confused as to why Jackson insisted on 3D for The Hobbit – it just doesn’t need it. It’s art without needing any additional gimmicks.
To sum up, The Hobbit is a great movie. It’s an epic movie – the sort of movie you wish Hollywood would make more of.