Many of my fellow geeks and I have been waiting for the next chapter in the Lord of the Ring saga. If you know any of the back story behind the movie process, you know that the project has changed directors and languished in studio Hell for years. It looked like Tolkien’s Hobbit would not be made. But director Peter Jackson would not let his legacy die so easily. Brace yourself for the next couple Christmases because we will be seeing one Hobbit movie per year for a while.
The first installment An Unexpected Journey was actually, just what I expected. It turned the dense and nearly unreadable work of Tolkien into something edible and fun. We see a young Bilbo Baggins join a company of dwarves to reclaim their homeland from the dreaded dragon Smaug. That is the long and the short of the plot of the first movie. There’s a white orc and goblins to fight, the first stirrings of the rise of a certain giant-eyed Sauron, Gandalf is taken to task by his bosses and we get to see Gollum in all his insane glory, but the story is basically a traveling adventure. Peter Jackson touted it as much more of a kid’s movie than Lord of the Rings and while it doesn’t hold the same apocalyptic overtones as the first three movies, I don’t know that I would feel comfortable taking anyone younger than a teenager to see The Hobbit. Some of the creatures were terrifying – a goblin king with a giant puss waddle hanging from his chin – and much of the action was intense.
If you know Tolkein’s world at all, or you’ve seen any of The Lord of the Rings you will know how this story goes. There’s not a lot new to present here other than a good adventure story. We see the same lush landscapes – New Zealand really is the last, best character in Peter Jackson’s arsenal – the same amazing attention to detail in the costumes, hair, makeup and the amazing special effects that bring a truly terrifying Gollum to life. Peter Jackson told us he added more facial muscles to the modeling of Gollum and boy, you can tell. The range of expression and the nuance of character captured from Andy Serkis’ performance does nothing less than push the entire industry forward. The acting is just as superb as in the other films, bringing back favorites like Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett and giving us new fodder with Martin Freeman (The Office UK) as young Bilbo Baggins and Richard Armitage as king and head of the dwarf expedition.
Weak points? Well, the Tolkien books are sometimes hard to condense down into a workable movie and at times the pacing was a little slow, simply so they could cram in all of the information relevant to the plot. There also seemed to be a great desire to connect these set of movies to The Lord of the Rings. We got an entire long sequence that showed off Frodo and the older Bilbo Baggins getting ready for the party that would occur in The Lord of the Rings. Also, one of the pivotal moments *SPOILER* Bilbo choosing not to kill Gollum SPOILER* is given less impact unless you know that it’s Gollum that eventually ends up saving the world at the end of The Lord of the Rings. A nit-picky geek flaw was seeing Gandalf call upon his magical, giant hawks once again. As many geeks have debated: if Gandalf could call upon his hawk friends, why didn’t he just have them take Gandalf and company all the way to their destination? All of these are ripe geek fodder that I’m sure no one else in the theater even thought about.
Overall, take in a treat of a movie and journey back to Middle Earth with Peter Jackson and crew. It’s worth the price of admission.
9 tasty Hobbitses out of 10