We walked out of the theater after seeing Les Miserables, ate our packed lunch in the car, and strolled over to Barnes & Noble to sing Jean Valjean’s praises over pumpkin spice lattes. Then we headed back to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
I have been a Tolkien fan for exactly ten years this month. I was ten, about to be eleven, when I first picked up The Hobbit. Folks, this was my childhood–and therefore seeing The Hobbit was one of the biggest deja vu moments in my life!
The Hobbit, the prequel of The Lord of the Rings (LOTR), is the story of Bilbo Baggins, a very respectable hobbit who finds himself swept up into an adventure he neither planned nor asked for. He is selected by the wizard Gandalf to join an expedition of Dwarves, who plan on reclaiming their home mountain from the dragon Smaug. Bilbo will go along as their “burglar,” or rather, their spy and also (rather conveniently) their cook.
Hobbits delight in their cozy homes, neat little gardens, and six plentiful meals. They are not adventurous–nay, they even despise adventures and anyone who actually enjoys them. Bilbo is a little different, though. He is a Baggins, but he is also half-Took on his mother’s side–and the Tooks have a flair for the exciting and dramatic. (See also: Pippin Took in LOTR.) Although he initially rejects the idea of joining Gandalf and the Dwarves, something drives him on in spite of the possibility he may never return to his beloved homeland, the Shire . . .
I give The Hobbit five stars. There was no objectionable content, it was excellently made/casted/acted, the action/battle scenes were flawless (if a little prolonged), the music was amazing . . . in short, it was great. I would NOT recommend seeing it AT ALL, however, if you’re not familiar with LOTR. There are so many allusions/references to things in the last three movies that simply won’t make sense if you haven’t at least brushed up on your Tolkien knowledge. Let me explain in a rather round-about way.
Overall, I thought the film was faithful to the book insofar as the basic plot is concerned. The thing about it, though, is that director Peter Jackson is taking one book and making it into three movies. The first Hobbit movie takes up only the first four or five chapters of the book. Everything is more drawn out/elaborated upon, but Jackson has also pulled in elements of the bigger, broader story as it relates to Bilbo’s tale. This could prove confusing to people who aren’t familiar with Tolkien’s books or the previously-made films.
It’s also darker than the book, which reads more like a Narnia story than a LOTR epic. In my opinion, this made it feel much more like a LOTR movie, and therefore an excellent prequel. (In other words, it won’t suffer the fate of the Star Wars prequels, which, I’ve heard, do not mesh well with the Original Trilogy.) If you’re expecting it to be as light-hearted as the book, though, you’ll be disappointed.
These changes also meant that we had a chance to reunite with some characters who don’t feature in the book, but who (according to LOTR and the rest of Tolkien’s extensive material) were very busy in the affairs of Middle-Earth at the time of Bilbo’s adventures.
Bilbo Baggins (played by the wonderful Martin Freeman) is absolutely positively CUTE–and I mean that in the best possible way, not as a silly airheaded fangirl who squeals and squeaks over who she thinks is “cute” when she really means “good-lookin’.” When I say “Bilbo Baggins is cute,” I’m thinking in terms of big sister looking at a precious toddler and crying, “Oh, he’s so cute!”
In spite of (or perhaps because of) his cuddliness, Martin Freeman is THE Hobbit. He puts Elijah Wood’s
wimpy boring non-climactic portrayal of Frodo Baggins to shame. He’s set in his ways; he’s very good-natured, but can be cross when his house is turned topsy-turvy, when he’s hungry, or when he’s at his wit’s end. But he’s also very clever, loyal, and has a delightful sense of humor.
And his facial expressions are to die for.
Bilbo also feels like he has something to prove to Thorin Oakenshield, the heir of the Dwarven throne. I reckon I’d feel like I had something to prove to Thorin, too. He’s pretty formidable.
Thorin is extremely haughty, extremely egotistic, extremely proud of his heritage, and extremely contemptuous of Bilbo’s honest attempts to be a good “burglar.” He is also played by Richard Armitage. Big points here in majestic awesomeness. Apparently Armitage is well-known as the dashing Mr. John Thornton in North and South, a BBC miniseries based on the book by Elizabeth Gaskell. WE, however, only know him as the Nazi assassin who bit down a cyanide pill after being caught by Steve Rogers in Captain America. But I digress.
GANDALF IS BACK!!!!!!!!! ‘Twas like reuniting with an old grandpa whom you haven’t seen in AGES. I almost jumped out of my seat with delight.
When I first saw him I thought Ian McKellen looked much older (ten years have passed since we last saw him, after all) but that impression quickly wore off as soon as he said, “I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means . . . me.” (*big happy sigh*) Oh Gandalf, Gandalf, how I love you. Everything always works out as long as you’re with all my favorite characters.
GOLLUM IS BACK!!!!!!! Although I suppose we won’t see him in the next two movies (*sniff sob sniff*). The computer animation guys did a fantastic job of making him look younger in this film. We also got an excellent foreshadowing of the events to come: Bilbo finds Gollum’s “precioussssss,” AKA his Ring. Unbeknownst to both of them, of course, this Ring is far more important than either of them suspect–and Bilbo finds himself unable to kill Gollum when he has the chance. Some greater power is holding him back, for some great purpose . . .
Gollum was, of course, as funny as ever, even while still being a sinister creature. There were even a few moments where, I confess, I thought he was being pretty darn cute.
My sister Carolyn thinks I’m weird.
ELROND AND GALADRIEL ARE BACK!!!!!!! (*cue happy dance*) Are they real immortal Elves?! Neither of them seem to have aged a bit. And I was so very glad to see Elrond being friendly, even slightly humorous. He always seemed so glum in LOTR.
Galadriel was gorgeous as ever and even more ethereal, if that can be possible. It was during a conversation between the Elven-Queen and Gandalf that we heard the best line in the movie. Everyone is confused as to why Gandalf chose Bilbo to join the adventure, and Galadriel confronts him about it.
Galadriel: Why the [hobbit]?
Gandalf: I don’t know. Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness, and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid… and he gives me courage.
“The small everyday deeds of ordinary folk . . .” That is a rather encouraging truth, is it not?
I want to comment on one more character before I end this review. This is Radagast, a “wizard” similar to Gandalf. He doesn’t make an appearance in the book, but he’s one of those characters brought in to expand the story and tie in LOTR.
Radagast lives in the Mirkwood forest, and the first time we see him, he’s distraught. His beautiful woodland is being poisoned, and he has no idea what’s causing the deaths of trees and even his pet animals . . . until he realizes: witchcraft.
J.R.R. Tolkien took great pains to distinguish between black magic and what he called “the arts” of Gandalf and the Elves. Whereas Gandalf, Radagast, or Galadriel are given inherent powers from God (“Iluvatar”)–and indeed, Gandalf and Radagast are supposed to be angelic beings–the villains use sorcery, “dark magic.” Radagast realizes it is an encroaching sorcerer who’s poisoning his home–the first hints of the growing power of an enemy known in The Hobbit as “The Necromancer.” There is a scene in which Radagast uses his divine, angelic power to drive out the evil presence, at least for a time, before he warns Gandalf about what’s happening.
I will offer SPOILERS, only because I know it’ll help people make sense of it all. The Necromancer and the Dark Lord Sauron are one and the same. What you’re seeing in The Hobbit is Sauron’s satanic power creeping over Middle-Earth, building up his strength for the climactic battle in The Return of the King.
Oh, and the Necromancer, that shadowy figure you saw in that one wee scene? He was played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who ALSO voices the dragon Smaug in the next movie. Y’know, Benedict Cumberbatch: William Pitt in Amazing Grace, Sherlock Holmes in the BBC show? Yeah, him. Which means Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes) and Martin Freeman (John Watson in the same show) will be playing Smaug and Bilbo.
There. Now stew on that for a little while 😉
All in all, it was a great movie and left me in immense disappointment that we won’t get another movie until December. I can’t wait to see Part 2, The Desolation of Smaug.
And you know, Peter Jackson is really mean to end it the way he did. The last thing you see is the Dwarves’ captured gold–piles and piles of it–and then it suddenly shifts–shakes–and you hear a low, menacing growl. The growl of the Dragon.
And then the camera zooms in to a mass of scales, and you see THIS:
And I suppose ’twas on purpose, Mr. Peter Jackson, that you made that eye look JUST like the Eye of Sauron?! You are cruel, CRUEL, to delay until Christmas!!!
But I like you very much. You have made four excellent films and, in my opinion, you are very faithful to dear Mr. Tolkien’s vision. And I am sure The Desolation of Smaug will be another well-deserved blockbuster 😉