I’m that rare person…the fantasy geek who has never read The Hobbit. Actually, truth be told, I never read The Fellowship of the Ring or The Two Towers either, though I did have a sense of the storyline. Hobbit finds ring. Bad man wants ring. Hobbit destroys ring (albeit over a long and torturous journey that manages to drag everybody into war.) In hindsight, I have no regrets. It was a pleasure enjoying a movie without anticipation of the storyline or preconceived notions of what people or characters should look like.
Likewise, with The Hobbit, I never read the book. Thus, what you can count on from me is a review of the movie itself without reference to the book and whether Peter Jackson did or did not adhere to the novel.
The movie starts out slowly, in my opinion, with glimpses into Bilbo’s life the day of his birthday party in the Shire (the day he gives Frodo the ring) before flashing back some 60+ years to his first meeting with Gandalf and the chaos that followed. I thought the scenes of dwarven partying in Bilbo’s house were excessively drawn out (and maybe, I was cringing–as most mothers do–at the thought of the amount of cleaning up that had to follow.) If there was a relationship that Gandalf had with Bilbo prior to the escapade, it must have escaped me. It felt odd that Gandalf would shoehorn Bilbo (practically a stranger to him) into an adventure for which he was obviously unprepared and unwilling to undertake, unless there were some rumblings of fate or destiny.
Me, personally, I would have stayed home, but Bilbo dashes off to follow the dwarves and embarks on an unexpected adventure (heck, “journey” is too mild a term to describe all that follows.) The dwarves, led by Thorin, the dwarven prince, are intent on reclaiming their mountain home from a dragon. (If I were going to fight a dragon, I would have brought along way more than 13 people, just saying…) The merry band runs into orcs, trolls, and a veritable gamut of Middle Earth’s flora and fauna (most especially the ones that are large enough and mean enough to kill you.) Through it all, one thing stuck out: Gandalf is unquestionably the personification of deus ex machina. The dwarves get into trouble with the trolls…Gandalf shows up. The dwarves get into trouble with the orcs…Gandalf shows up. The dwarves get into trouble with more orcs…Gandalf shows up.
It was enough to make you roll your eyes, but the action was rip-roaring fun anyway, so you could almost forgive the novelist and the script writer for it. The one thing I never understood about this movie (or about The Lord of the Rings) was why the giant eagles wouldn’t just carry you to your destination and drop you off in front of it as opposed to dropping you off in the middle of nowhere and expecting you to walk the rest of the (long, long) way.
Bilbo acquits himself admirably. Over the course of the movie, he becomes less of a nuisance and much more of a hero, winning Thorin’s respect and gratitude. All in all, the stakes in the movie appear to be much less world-changing than The Lord of the Rings (though I’m sure Thorin would disagree with me) but the undercurrents of change run through the entire movie, not the least of which, Bilbo finds the one Ring in Gollum’s cave.
As for the characters, the dwarves started to blend together. I recognized a few easily (Thorin, Balin, Fili, and Kili) but the rest were a blur of beards. There were elves, though not enough, and there was no Legolas (Sigh…for that I think I’ll deduct a half star.)
In hindsight, The Hobbit was a fun movie. It wasn’t quite like The Fellowship of the Ring where my immediate instinct after the movie was to pay for another ticket and watch it again. In this case, I can hold off on my second viewing of The Hobbit until it comes out on DVD as a trilogy (because as we all know, boxed sets are cheaper), and even then, I suspect, I won’t be as compulsive about seeing it again and again as I am with The Lord of the Rings. Yes, the movie is rife with fights with orcs and trolls, but taken as a whole, there is much less emotional tension and conflict in the story (or at least it seems a bit more trite compared to that in The Lord of the Rings.)
I’d rate it 4.5 stars (minus a half star for not putting Orlando Bloom on the screen somewhere.)
Rating: 4 stars!
What do the ratings mean:
1 star: I hope someone paid you to watch this movie; otherwise, you’ve been gypped.
2 stars: I hope you’re watching this movie for free. I also hope you brought a book so that you could read through the dull parts
3 stars: A respectable use of your time but not in need of a big screen and super sound effects. Wait for it to show up on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
4 stars: See the movie in the cinema. Definitely worth the price of entry.
5 stars: See the movie in the cinema, then buy the DVD so that you can see it again (and again)