Although I am a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and his works, I must confess that I’ve only read The Hobbit once and it was years ago. I went into this movie only remembering a few key details from the book, so I can’t really tell you what was added, expanded upon, or simply made up for this movie. I will tell you that I liked this film quite a lot, and it certainly didn’t feel like it was three hours long nor did it seem boring.
I normally despise prequels, but this story is a case where The Hobbit was written many years before Lord of the Rings. I think LOTR is the better overall story because it’s much longer and well developed, so that’s likely why Peter Jackson chose to make it first. What this new movie trilogy does is give the complete back story on some of the events that were briefly mentioned in the LOTR trilogy. As a result, it does still suffer from the usual symptoms of prequelitis in that you already know how things will end up, the fate of some characters, and so on. You’ll also visit locations you’ve already seen before. However, there’s plenty of new material and new characters to keep you interested.
What The Hobbit does is tell the story of Bilbo, who we met briefly at the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring and who appeared from time to time in later books. In this movie, Bilbo is much younger and happily enjoying a quiet life in the shire. You’ll get to see his first encounter with the wizard Gandalf and how he chose Bilbo for a quest to help a group of dwarves take back their home. He reluctantly agrees to go along, and during this epic quest he comes across Gollum and becomes the next owner of the famed ring that because the centerpiece of Tolkien’s beloved trilogy. All the war and bad stuff going on in LOTR gets started with this book.
Since it has been so long since I read the book, I can’t say where exactly it ends. I’ve spoken with friends who are much more familiar with the story and they commented on how some characters who may have gotten a simple paragraph in the book wind up having major scenes in this movie. Everybody knows that Peter Jackson has taken this relatively short book and expanded it into three full length movies, and I think some fans are in an uproar over the potential for tampering. Personally, I welcome any reason to return to this amazing fantasy realm, and I liked everything that I saw in this movie.
This movie runs about three hours long, but it didn’t feel like it at all. There is quite a bit of action throughout the story, and the visual effects are top notch, as can be expected. You’ll see plenty of sword fighting, spell casting, big monsters, little monsters, and so on. It has a couple of huge battle scenes, some big stunts, and plenty of new material to guarantee that this is not some kind of recycled underwhelming LOTR knockoff. The plot and characters all stand quite well on their own. After all, this is the book that set the groundwork for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Martin Freeman, who has long been one of my favorite actors, is perfectly cast as Bilbo. Whereas Elijah Wood’s Frodo was a much nicer and friendly character, Bilbo is a bit of a loner who seems to have issues with authority. He just wants to be left alone, and he doesn’t seem like much of a people person despite being charming and witty when the need arises. Ian McKellen is excellent as always, and he looks a bit younger in this movie. Richard Armitage plays Thorin, who is sort of like the Strider of this series, and he does brooding well. The rest of the supporting cast are all excellent and colorful in their roles. There are also a couple of cameos that I won’t mention in case you didn’t already know.
I the end, I was quite impressed with this first installment of The Hobbit. It doesn’t have that same sense of dread that pervaded the first LOTR movie, nor does it have quite the same majesty, but it’s still a great film.
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