Yeah, I know The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened almost a month ago and I am, once again, a little late on the draw, but it has come to my attention that upwards of a dozen people in North America have not yet seen this movie so this one is for them. I, like many of you no doubt, spent much of the last few weeks visiting friends and family over the holidays and I got several questions about The Hobbit and whether is was worth seeing. For example, my sister asked if it was “another movie about walking”? She was referencing a, I’ll call it, notorious rant from none other than Kevin Smith about the Lord of the Rings trilogy in which he demonstrated the plot of the movie by taking a few steps on stage during “An Evening with Kevin Smith 2, Evening Harder” and then taking off his wedding ring and throwing it on the carpet near the mike. This rant would later go on to be featured in Clerks 2. I do enjoy Kevin Smith, but I have to disagree with his assessment of the Rings trilogy; saying that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is about walking is like saying any Kevin Smith movie is about talking. A lot of the characters do a lot of talking, but the movies aren’t about talking, they just feature talking. So, if you change the question to, is this another film that features a lot of walking, the answer is yes, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome.
First off, the film just looks amazing. Peter Jackson has brought Middle-earth to life and, if it is possible, it is even more beautiful in this prequel to the Rings trilogy which is supposed to take place 60 years before Frodo makes his journey to Mount Doom. Bilbo, still a relatively young hobbit, is hand-picked by Gandalf the Gray, a wizard to accompany him and a troop of dwarves on an adventure. Adventures, in Middle-earth, almost always requiring a lot of walking, but this one also involves a visit with elves, treacherous fighting mountains, orks, and let us not forget the trolls. And this adventure is not just a relaxing gamble about in the back woods, no Bilbo has been identified by Gandalf as very necessary in the endeavor to reclaim the dwarves’ home in the Lonely Mountain from Smaug, the dragon. Yeah, that’s as far into the plot as I’m going to go, but there are plenty of different themes running throughout the book and film for anyone to enjoy. My personal favorite is the idea that young Bilbo has always been respectable, never going on any adventures and never truly knowing what he is capable of – and he is capable of greatness! Loyalty, cunning, mercy and what home means are also lovely themes to think about in The Hobbit, but I’m not here to get all deep on you. I’ll leave that kind of thing to Doug. All I’m here for is to tell you if the movie is good or not and this one is great, especially if you’re a fan of the book or the Rings trilogy.
The Hobbit looks even better than the Lord of the Rings movies did, if that is possible. Rivendell is especially stunning and the dwarves are played to perfection. The orks are suitably nasty and brutish and the fight scenes are tremendous, but the heart of this movie is, of course, Bilbo and Martin Freeman plays him to perfection. Bilbo is just the rights amount of trepidatious, eventually throwing caution to the wind in order to join the travelling Company as their thief – because every adventure needs a thief – and Freeman brings a nice balanced sense of humor to the role that makes this hobbit absolutely endearing. You root for him from the beginning. Between the dwarves and the trolls, there are plenty of laughs in the movie too. While in the book, the scene with the trolls is actually pretty tense, in the movie it is played almost entirely for laughs, but the comic relief was well placed.
I will admit that I think making The Hobbit in three parts and releasing it over the next several years as Jackson is planning to do has ticked me off. In an effort to placate me, Doug reminded me that at the end of the day, I’ll have nine hours of amazing movie to watch and I won’t be ticked then, but I still say it is kind of a dick move to make a 300 page book into three separate movies and this brings me to my one and only criticism of the movie. It is a long movie, almost three hours. Not that at any point it felt long, but that speaks more to the beauty of the film than anything else. The 3D, while not strictly necessary helped give Middle-earth depth and lend a quality of wonder to wandering through the woods and clamoring through goblin tunnels and then there was, of course, the precious. Bilbo and Gollum play a game to determine whether Gollum will help Bilbo or eat him. Again, Freeman plays this scene perfectly with just the right amount of humor and Gollum looks even more real and expressive than he did in the trilogy. Andy Serkis described Gollum in this movie as the young and sexy Gollum, but he is far from that. He is manic and frightening. Bilbo, in obtaining the one ring from Gollum must be both crafty and daring and he learns through that experience, first winning the ring and then sparing Gollum’s life, exactly what he is made of. It is exactly this daring and empathy that Bilbo discovers in himself that allows him to risk his own life to save the leader of his Company. I can’t wait to see what the next film will bring us. Tricksy hobbitses, indeed.