Based on the first six or so chapters of JRR Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, this opening part of The Hobbit trilogy finds Bilbo Baggins unexpectedly heading off on a quest with a former friend, Gandalf, and a group of dwarves to help them attempt to reclaim their ancient kingdom from Smaug the dragon. We start off just before the party from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, then head back 60 years to learn about how Bilbo came about to possess Sauron’s ring of power.
Main cast *career highlights not including Lord of the Rings
Bilbo Baggins – Martin Freeman (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; Sherlock; Love Actually)
Gandalf – Sir Ian McKellen (X-Men; Richard III; The Prisoner)
Thorin Oakenshield – Richard Armitage (Captain America; Robin Hood; Spooks)
Gollum/Sméagol – Andy Serkis (Deathwatch; King Kong; Burke and Hare)
Directed by Peter Jackson (Bad Taste; King Kong; The Lovely Bones)
Written by Fran Walsh (Heavenly Creatures), Philippa Boyens (King Kong), Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones) & Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth)
Based on the book “The Hobbit” by JRR Tolkien
What Did I Think of the Film?
I watched the entire The Lord of the Rings trilogy (from here on in referred to as LOTR) in the days leading up to release day, having booked tickets a fortnight before, in great excitement to see the first part of The Hobbit after waiting nine years since the conclusion of The Return of the King. I hadn’t read the book so, other than the back story provided in LOTR, I had nothing to go on in terms of the plot and what characters to expect here other than Bilbo and Gandalf.
It was clear, as was evident from the trailer, that this was not going to be in the same style as LOTR. The feeling of the end of the world is not yet upon our brave adventurers, and the mood is considerably lighter all round, even in the more despairing moments when they face trolls, goblins or orcs. There is a very jovial feel throughout, which I was not expecting, which presented me with a strange situation. I was expecting to face a gripping edge of my seat adventure like before, but instead could relax and enjoy the comedy aspect brought through some hilarious visual comedy.
Surprisingly the character who provided most of the laughs was Gollum, played with some wonderful vigour by Andy Serkis. His facial expressions and tone of voice make even the sarkiest throwaway comment seem like great impromptu stand-up comedy. Freeman played off him well, and the riddle scene which takes up an entire chapter in the book was acted out superbly, if perhaps a little too comically; and without the rowboat which is mentioned several times in the novel. In the book it’s told in a fairly dark manner, but you can tell that our protagonists are enjoying themselves, and perhaps get a little carried away with the humour at times.
Obviously with the film having less than 80 pages of a fairly short book to work with it was going to need quite a lot of additional scenes added in to allow an approximately 160 minute long (without the credits) film to be created. This meant that any time an event happens in the book it required a great deal of extra writing to be done to make a scene out of it. There are a few parts where something that is briefly mentioned in two lines gets about 15 minutes of screen time; this allows Jackson and his team to have some fun creating imagery that Tolkien didn’t have space to create. The scenes with the stone giants, and within the Goblin cave, were basically created from scratch which means that it deviates from the story for quite a considerable period of time.
McKellen is a terrific actor, however perhaps the role of Gandalf (as they did with Bilbo) should have been portrayed by a younger man. We’ve gone 60 years into the past for this film, yet McKellen has aged almost a decade and seems less awe inspiring than he did during LOTR. This has to be expected given that he is now in his mid-70s, but has made the character lose some of his screen presence.
The newcomers to the story are the group of dwarves, led by their exiled king Thorin (played with an air of appropriate arrogance by English television actor Richard Armitage). Armitage comes across well, and manages successfully to belittle Bilbo without weakening him as the strong focal point of our story. I have only previously seen him in The Vicar of Dibley, but can assure you after watching this film that he will be a strong leader for the remainder of the trilogy.
Go and see this film if you enjoy a fun family adventure story that is interspersed with a great deal of comedy. It is nowhere near as dark or even as story driven as LOTR but it works from an entertainment point of view.
Don’t bother if you don’t like family orientated adventures, this will not fulfil your dark, apocalyptic LOTR needs. The film is a lot lighter and, as such, is much more suitable for kids than the LOTR trilogy. There is nowhere near as much to work with in such a short book, and any action scenes are being created from scratch without much to work on in the original text; so if you are expecting the book to be followed to the letter you are going to be disappointed.
7/10 – A lot has been said about the speed of the film being too fast in 2D, however I can’t say I noticed it as a problem. There was one scene that seemed a little fast, but it appeared more as an effect as the characters had quite a distance to cover. Saruman, Galadriel, Frodo and Elrond all appear to keep fans of LOTR satisfied but these parts are either added in, or extended, to provide an element of continuity with the previous trilogy.
I expect that the best of the action is still to come in the later parts, with the great dragon Smaug featuring a lot more, and the Necromancer (Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch) getting some screen time after his brief introduction near the beginning of the film.
Alan Redman – @Every1LuvsPingu