Peter Jackson brings us back into the world of Tolkein 10 years after The Fellowship of the Ring was first released. New Zealand still looks amazing on screen – the familiar surroundings of Hobbiton, the great hilly plains, Rivendell and those amazing set pieces are still a integral part of Jackson’s interpretation of Tolkein.
Along with some familiar faces from the Lord of the Rings series such as Ian McKellon, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett and Christopher Lee (as well as a cameo from Elijah Wood and Ian Holm) we get the perfectly cast Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, the reluctant hobbit who’s catapulted into the adventure of a lifetime. He’s a perfect representation of a hobbit, completely down-to-earth, positive and inquisitive – a contrast to an always moody Frodo. We also have the gang of dwarves, loveable and loud, each with their own personality and character. We have the delicious and delectable Richard Armitage as Thorin, the leader of the dwarves: to me Armitage is the Viggo Mortesen/Aragorn of these movies – he has a great story arc and doesn’t disappoint. After being a fan of his for a while, I’m glad he’s been given a big stage such as this to shine on. The company of dwarves, Gandalf and Bilbo are trying to take back Erebor, the true home of the dwarves from the dragon Smaug. We get a glimpse of it in the beginning of the movie and even if it was only on screen for 5 minutes, the shots of Erebor look spectacular. James Nesbitt and Aidan Turner also star as two of the 12 dwarf company and also Slyvester McCoy stars as the eccentric, but loveable wizard Radagast, putting in a spirited performance (who didn’t think Sebastian the hedgehog was cute).
The first 40 minutes or so of the film for me, dragged a little – even though it was nice to see Elijah Wood back in his Frodo outfit I thought it was a little indulgent and unnecessary. Although I suppose thinking back to Fellowship of the Ring the first part of that is certainly not as exciting as the rest of it. The introduction of the dwarves and their songs, and also the opening tale of Smaug taking over Erebor were the highlights for me, and it isn’t really until the sequence with the trolls that the movie picks up the pace building the excitement and tension, turning it into a movie of epic proportions – those shots of the company running across the plain from the pack of Orcs are stunning. The feeling of epic crops up constantly in the movie, from those mountain battle scenes, to the scenes in the cavernous home of the Orcs. Throughout the movie you get the feeling of love and care from the dwarf company – they are constantly bantering, and joking around and I really enjoyed the interaction with the different personalities coming through.
One sequence that had to be a stand out was the ‘Riddles in the Dark’ scene which saw the return of Andy Serkis as Gollum. Serkis slips right back into the role and despite the scene only lasting around 10 minutes it was a stand out for the film. It’s tension-building, it’s character driven and wonderfully performed, showing the film does not need to rely on huge action pieces.
Fans of Lord of the Rings that have not necessarily read The Hobbit can certainly get their geek moments with mentions of the mines of Moria, the moment that Bilbo gets the ring, the sword that glows when orcs are near that Frodo inherits, Mr Bilbo’s trolls, (I’m pretty sure we see Weathertop), and the mention of the Witch King and his sword.
Even though I haven’t read The Hobbit (I plan to) I can’t imagine there are many deleted or extended scenes. This film only covers the first six chapters of the novel, with Jackson choosing to flesh out the story using various sources of Tolkein material, to give the story the feel of it being a prequel to Rings trilogy. It will be interesting to see the rest of the trilogy unfold and I think only after we have seen the full 3 films, we will know whether the trilogy was fully necessary or more of an indulgence. Even so, I think it is definitely worth sitting through the 2 hour 50 minutes to see this film – even if you haven’t read the book, it’s easy enough to follow and especially if you’re a fan of LOTR you should certainly see this film.
Thorin: I cannot guarantee his safety.
Thorin: Nor will I be responsible for his fate.
Gandalf: Agreed. (The Hobbit)