10pm on December the 13, I found myself doubting that I am actually seeing The Hobbit and that for the next three hours I will be experiencing childhood nostalgia. Tolkien is back in theatres.
Since the initial release that audiences were going to be transported back to Middle Earth, I was both excited and nervous at the same time. When Guillermo del Toro was released as the Director, I was still split. I love the man, but his style was so much different then that of Jackson, and there was a part of my that needed the continuity. But then del Toro dropped out and Peter Jackson stepped in.
But of course that wasn’t the end. The Hobbit was under half the length of the Fellowship and was going to be two movies… And then three. What the hell had I signed up for?
But I knew, I was going to be in that theatre opening night, so help me god, I was going to watch that movie in 3D with the 48f/s in IMAX and even if I threw up, or had the worst migrane of my life I was going to get through it.
The Hobbit is a spectacle, beautifully shot, beautifully casted, beautifully scored and well put together. I have heard a lot of complaints about the 48f/s, but viewing in in IMAX it was almost impossible to notice. There is a slight difference yes, but the “fakeness” of the film was unseen. I’m going to assume, (and this is just an assumption because I know very little about projection and frame-rates and screen sizes), that if the film were viewed on a smaller screen (a normal theatre screen size) then the frame rate would be much more noticeable. All in all the slight difference, worked to the films favour. The Hobbit, has a fairy-tale children’s story tone (it was originally a children’s story) which the 48f/s exemplified. This movie is clearly set in the same world as the previous Lord of the Rings film, but there is something different. This film does not have the grand scale of LOTR, this is a story that you could believe is happening just over the hills in those local woods you know. The major story, to reclaim the Dwarves Gold and Homeland (even though deals with serious themes) is fun comedic and relatively light in comparison to the constant doom that hung over LOTR.
That being said, The Hobbit isn’t just a fun adventure, there is a lot of work setting up the “extended content” for later. The scene with the Necromancer, fairy tale-like in nature, but still rather dark and the introduction to the Witch King’s Lore was managed well. The scenes in which Radagast visits Dol Guldur and encounters the ghost of the Witch King and the Necromancer are not only visually stunning, but serve as a wonderful way to introduce the dread that one will become familiar with in The Lord of the Rings and (it can be assumed) the later Hobbit movies. If one is unfamiliar with the text, then these add ins would feel completely natural. Also, the influence of Del Toro can be seen in the creation of Thorin’s enemy: The White Orc. His appearance harkens back to Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy Franchise.
The White Orc does not feel out of place, instead he effectively grounds the story by giving more backstory to Thorin. I loved the little bit explaining the “Oakenshield” and how that name came to be. His existence in the story helps explain orc attacks that happen throughout the film. The White Orc also gives Jackson reason to show Moria, and the battles fought over it, which is a nice reference to the Mines of Moria in The Fellowship.
The performances of Martin Freeman (Bilbo), Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and Sylvester McCoy (Radagast the Brown) were all fantastic. The Dwarves were also great and there was a lot of effort put into creating distinct personalities to differentiate between them. The film also effectively used its cameos. I loved seeing Christopher Lee as Saruman again, and a much more happy relatable Elrond (Hugo Weaving). Also, who can forget about Gollum? Andy Serkis really deserves and Academy Award for the performance he gave as the slightly psychotic shut in who loves riddles. The dialogue that he carried with himself was comic gold.
You couldn’t help but feel sorry for him when he realizes that he has lost the ring and sheds a tear. It also must be noted, that even
though this event is extremely important to the events in The Lord of the Rings, finding the Ring is only a minor part of The Hobbit. Yes, the Ring is useful when Bilbo finally encounters the dragon later in The Hobbit, but at this point in the story the Ring is just a magic ring. Not the One Ring to Rule them all. Jackson could have easily fallen into the trap where the focus of the film is more on the origin of the Lord of the Rings, instead the focus on The Hobbit is refreshing.
The film’s major issue is with its pacing. There are long periods where The Hobbit becomes a non stop action film, and then it just grinds to a halt as “important information” needs to be explained before the next action sequence happens. Like The Return of the King, you can’t be sure when the film is actually going to end. When the Company leaves the caves of the Misty Mountains, Bilbo gives a rousing speech about people needing homes, and you think: “what a poetic and well times ending!” Only to have that smashed by a Warg attack. Jackson and Co. cram in as much as they possibly can in the last thirty minutes of the film, and it shows. The film feels like an extended edition of a shorter more concise version. There is a lot of pandering to fans of the previous films and Tolkien Fans alike.
Other than that The Hobbit is well put together, well cast and a good start to what I expect will be another good installment to the world of The Lord of the Rings. If you love Tolkien, or the films then go see it. I know that I will be seeing it again soon. I look forward to see Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug and the voice of Sauron. I’m also really excited to see how Mirkwood is handled. We briefly get to see Thranduil’s costume in the prologue of the movie, and he looked fantastic. I just want to see more. But to pass the time, I’m going to return to my well worn LOTR Extended Editions. I’m interested in how watching LOTR will change now that I have seen Bilbo as a title character, and not just a side character of LOTR. Will this change how I view LOTR or will it make no difference? I’ll have to wait and see.