Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Movie Review: The Hobbit

Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Language: English. Elvish, Dwarvish
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 169 minutes

I should start off my review with a warning. I'm going to assume that, if you're going to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, you've already read the novel. There may be spoilers ahead for people who haven't. I'll try to keep them to a minimum, but let's be honest. The first pressing of the novel was in 1937. The most well-known animated adaptation was released in 1977. There have been several adaptations such as radio shows and musicals.  It's hard to spoil something that has been imagined and reimagined so many times over the years.

Seeing this movie was a very important thing for me. As a child, I'd read the book with my father. It was one of those standout memories. I was lucky enough to be able to see it with a very amazing woman that loves Tolkien's world just as much as I do. We were both very captivated by Peter Jackson's ability to bring such a classic to life. Our only real fear was that certain things would get left out much like in Lord of the Rings. That subject is for another review though.

Old Bilbo: My dear Frodo, you asked me once if I had told you everything there was to know about my adventures. Well, I can honestly say I've told you the truth, I may not have told you all of it. 

The first film was an excellent adaptation of a classic novel. The first scene in Bag End with Bilbo and Frodo was the perfect way to set the tone of the film. For those of you who were worried, put your fears to rest. Frodo's role is simply a small, yet important one to tie The Hobbit to the events of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Jackson's vision and dedication to the series is made clear from that opening scene. He's just as much of a fan as the rest of us are.

Gandalf: You'll have a tale or two to tell when you come back. 
Bilbo: You can promise that I will come back? 
Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same. 

The cgi and visual effects are far better than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It still managed to be very believeable as being the beginning of the saga. The costume and set designs were once again breathtaking. Detailed weapons also added to the authentic feel. The choice of filming in New Zealand again lent beautiful landscapes to a film that should be filled with them. By the time we walked out of the theatre, I was ready to book a flight and buy myself a home in the Shire or beg for a place among the elves in Rivendell! 

There were several standout moments. The Dwarven songs at Bilbo's home were among the biggest. I was afraid when I heard that the writers would choose to leave the songs out of the movie. After all, almost all the songs had been omitted from the Lord of the Rings films. To me, it felt more important that these were included. After all, The Hobbit was meant to have an injection of humor in the midst of the drama. Throwing dishes as they sing 'That's what Bilbo Baggins' hates' brought me back to being a child and wishing cleaning up after dinner could be that much fun. 

Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!
Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates --

Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!
Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Splash the wine on every door!

Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;
Pound them up with a thumping pole;
And when you've finished, if any are whole,
Send them down the hall to roll!
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!

A little later came the song that I was looking forward to the most. I'll admit that I had chills when I saw this one on the trailer. Even though it was in the trailer, I still had my worries that it wouldn't be part of the actual film. I'm sure that some of you know how dreadful it is when those iconic scenes only appear in the trailer. The scene was perfect. I have to admit that I was in tears by the time it was over.

From the council meeting at Rivendell to the battle of wits between Bilbo and Gollum, The Hobbit lives up to everything that I could have hoped for. Even the animals had a big part to play. These are most apparent in Thranduil's brief appearance with his elk as well as Radagast and his rabbits. The orcs with their wargs were a standout moment as well as the Great Eagles. I could go on in detail, but that would simply lead to much more than you'd be willing to read. I'll begin to wrap up this review by touching on the characters and actors that brought the film to life. 

There were several characters that stood out more than others. Thorin, Kili and Fili from the dwarves were a delight to see. Galadriel was just as ethereal when she was once again brought to life by the beautiful Cate Blanchett. Elrond, Gandalf and Saruman were exactly what we'd expected them to be. Even knowing what Saruman would become, it was easy to see him as he should have been for the time period. Martin Freeman was the perfect choice for the young Bilbo Baggins just as Ian Holm brought to life Bilbo's elder incarnation. As always, Andy Serkis deserves high praise for his work as Gollum. Nothing can convince me that the character would have such personality without Mr. Serkis donning that motion capture suit to bring him to life.

Bilbo: Why don't we have a game of riddles and if I win, you show me the way out of here? 
Gollum: And if he loses? What then? Well if he loses, precious, then we eats it! If Baggins loses, we eats it whole! 
Bilbo: Fair enough. 

I highly recommend that any Tolkien fan go see this film. Any fan of fantasy in general should take the time to not only see the film, but read the novel as well. The Hobbit was always a novel where you didn't need to be convince yourself of your surroundings. Instead, you were simply there in the world that Tolkien created. Allow yourself to be swept away and go see the Hobbit while you have the chance.

Rating: 5/5

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