I apologize that it took so long for me to put up this review, but it was only recently that I had the time to see this movie. So sue me. 🙂
The Let’s be clear; I LIKED this movie much more than not. I was completely drawn back into the world of Middle Earth from the moment the first scene came on screen. Seeing the elder Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) and Frodo (Elijah Woods) in the first sequence only made my heart skip a beat with the joy and dread of knowing what will ultimately happen to these two Hobbits of Bag End. However, that isn’t to say that this journey didn’t have issues. Again, for the most part, this was a solid beginning to a journey I read as a child and saw as an animated feature back in the 80’s. Unlike many of the critics of its day, I personally liked The Hobbit animated movie and thought that it hit all the major bells and whistles.
The movie opens up with the elder Bilbo and Frodo preparing for this 83rd birthday as seen in the beginning of The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring tale. Bilbo is anxious to tell the tale of his journey as a young Hobbit to Frodo as the last will and testament of his life. At this point, he still has the one ring, the ring that haunts him and has extended his life. His moderately tortured existence then transitions to his younger self (Martin Freeman, who also plays Dr. John Watson in Sherlock), 60 years in the past, as he is reintroduced to Gandalf The Grey (Ian McKellen). Gandalf has an adventure for the young Hobbit and while he isn’t 100% sure why, he believes that Bilbo is the one that will ultimately make his plan a failure of success, regardless of Bilbo’s many, many, many objections to the contrary.
We are then introduced to the Dwarves, all 13 of them. They are a lively, brash, belligerent and hearty bunch of ragamuffins whose tale is as epic and heart breaking as the tale that will follow. Their kingdom home, in the Lonely Mountain, has been taken over by the evil Dragon and main antagonist, Smaug. Now, you have to pronounce every letter of his name to say it appropriately, so everyone sounds like a version of Bill Nighy (Davie Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) when they it. This dragon has come for one thing, all of the gold that this kingdom of the Dwarves has produced over the centuries. It also sets the tension in the movie as 1) the Dwarves are now refugees and scattered, 2) the animosity between the Dwarves and Elves and 3) the subplot of the story: the blood feud between the Dwarven would-be king, Thorin and the Orc leader Bolg (Conan Stevens), a massive pale-skinned Orc who slew Thorin’s grandfather and prior king of the Dwarves in the battle to reclaim their Dwarven homeland.
What I loved about this movie is that it truly captured much of the splendor, whimsy, humor, dread and direness of The Lord of the Rings adaptation. The rolling hills, the scenic plains and sharp edged mountains of Middle Earth have put New Zealand on my bucket list of places that I plan on visiting in my lifetime. The visuals were stunning and the music was as majestic as you would have hoped for. Gandalf seemed to be as ageless as ever. Gollum was even more humorous and tortured than ever. His puppy dog eyes made your heart melt, his sinister glare made you clutch your pearls. The Dwarves were humorous, playful, hardened and kickass, all in the same breath. The Orcs and Goblins were as disgusting and menacing as they were in the LOTRs movies. Even the pale Orc had a dastardly persona and guise that only reinforced the sense that our Hobbit, Wizard and Dwarven heroes were in some deep doo doo. When Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) appeared in Rivendale, you couldn’t help but be in awe of her beauty and poise. It was even great to see the ever popular Hugo Weaving reprise his role as Elrond.
This also leads me into what I found to be distracting about The Hobbit. For one, there was too much of a sense of the “been there, done that” with this movie. As in the LOTR movie when elder Bilbo got a little too mouthy with Gandalf, the wizen wizard cast a shadow spell that quickly put him back in his place. Well, he did it again with the Dwarves in Bilbo’s den. There were the many running scenes that reminded me of the all the running scenes in the first two LOTRs movies. Gandalf forever yelling “RUUUUUN!!” Even the scenes with the giant eagles felt all too familiar. Thus, there wasn’t the “freshness” that I had hoped for. It was like when I watched The Hangover Part II, I liked it, but it was mostly a retread of the first movie, thus I have never had the impulse to see it again because the first movie did it first and better. Thus, it’s a little more concerning because this is a prequel and it’s already pulling from the same well of visuals. Now, let me say this clearly – I’m in and on board for all three movies. I don’t care if 50% of the movie is basically a rehash of LOTR. Any rehash of LOTR is better than watching ONE minute of the Twilight series or the entire Harry Potter series.
The main issue I had with this movie was the unnecessarily long dialogue scenes that could have been cut in half. The scene where Bilbo and Gollum meet for the first time was good in a sense, but also so drawn out that I actually looked at my watch. They went through this whole diatribe of trying out flank each other with riddles. It was fun to watch for the first two riddles, the next two – errrr… can we move this along now? The scene with the trolls was fun to watch, but again – it just went on FAR too long and had it been edited down a bit I think it would have flowed more evenly. I even found the scene with Galadriel, Elrond, Saruman and Gandalf to be a tad bit on the extended side for the sake of extending the scene.
The Hobbit is not a long book, at least not like the LOTR, so I was interested to see how Peter Jackson was going to break up this novel in order to make it another trilogy. He left it a decent point where our band of brothers are at the doorstep of the Lonely Mountain, but this could have EASILY been two well-done movies as opposed to three elongated pictures to satisfy the studio. Smaug hasn’t been seen in decades and there’s talk that he may already be dead and gone. However, the last scene effectively shows you that Smaug is not only alive and well, but is eager to put the smack down on anyone who decides that taking his gold will be an easy feat. Thus, when Bilbo exclaims at the end, “…the worst is behind us.” It actually rang a bit silly and quite unnecessary to say knowing that they have a fire-breathing DRAGON to contend with. However, I will say it again – even the ineffective and elongated annoyances of this flick are better than the last two acclaimed series that bored me to tears. I’ll take it any day and then some.
Good movie and worth seeing, but not LOTRs perfect.
RATING: 3.75 out of 5