I have never actually read The Hobbit properly. When I was a kid, I saw the 1977 animated film, and I’ve read a graphic novel version several times. But the novel itself? Never touched it. Be that as it may, I was really looking forward to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, so when I finished my last exam Seanie and I went to see this movie in celebration.
Bilbo Baggins loves his comfortable home and peaceful way of life, but it is all overturned when the wizard Gandalf appears and informs the hobbit that he is going on an adventure. Reluctantly, Bilbo joins a quest to conquer a dragon and gain gold and the ancestral home of his companions, a dozen or so dwarfs. Along the way, they encounter elves, wizards, ogres, orcs, and giant eagles. Although he’s desperately homesick, Bilbo discovers that there’s more courage and cleverness in him than anyone suspected.
Given that the original book isn’t all that long, I was very curious to see how the material would be stretched out into a trilogy. The most noticeable addition is Azog the Defiler; he and his goblins chase the dwarfs throughout the film. This is all new – in the book, he is mentioned briefly by Gandalf but the goblin is long dead. I guess Peter Jackson and his team thought it would make the story more compelling if Azog could leave a team of bad guys to counter the efforts of Thorin Oakenshield and his dwarfs. I’m not sure that it was necessary, but since the story’s main villain (Smaug the Dragon) barely appears in the first film I guess they needed someone to fulfill the role.
Bilbo is great. Martin Freeman just nailed the role perfectly. Bilbo’s evolution from perpetual victim to clever survivor is such a joy to watch. I just loved him, whether he was fussing with the dishes in his kitchen or standing up to Thorin.
Thorin appears far younger than I’ve seen him in any other interpretation of the book. He has always looked rather like a mini-Gandalf, pale and grey-bearded. I like the new design for the character; he seems much more vigorous and – let’s face it – the movie needed some eye candy, and Richard Armitage is a good-looking guy, even when half is face is buried under a mountain of hair. Granted, even Jackson’s tricks of forced perspective can’t hide the fact that the actor is a tall man (6’2” according to Google) and not built in the least like a dwarf. But hey, we’ll pretend. I wish I could remember something about the other dwarfs, but with so many of them running around they’re largely undistinguished. There’s a gluttonous fat one and a wise old one and a young one with a bit of sass, but heck if I can remember their names.
Several of the characters from the Lord of the Rings trilogy make a cameo appearance, even though they technically aren’t part of the story: Frodo, Old Bilbo, Galadriel, and Saruman. Frodo and Old Bilbo are completely pointless – they’re basically rehashing the beginning of The Fellowship of the Rings, and it’s a completely unnecessary scene. Galadriel and Saruman do little more than look worried and remind viewers that all of this action is merely a prelude to the epic movies they appear in. More delightful are the return of those who actually have a purpose, like Elrond and Gandalf – both characters are wonderful to see again. Now that I think of it, Galadriel does have one good moment - she confronts Gandalf directly about his decision to bring Bilbo along (“Why a hobbit?”, that sort of thing) and he admits that he doesn’t actually have a purpose. Gandalf always came across as so wise and in control in the books. I like that in these movies he often seems to be flying by the seat of his pants. For just a moment, when he thinks that Bilbo died down in the goblin mines, he has the most heartbreaking expression on his face because he realizes that his hasty action may have led to an innocent’s death. His relief when Bilbo reappears made me smile; Gandalf can believe in the small and humble after all, hooray!
So yeah, I had a lot of fun watching the movie. But good grief, The Hobbit sure is a long movie! As much as I was enjoying it, I was also getting incredibly antsy because three hours is a long time to expect someone to sit still in a dark theater. I mean, couldn’t they have added an intermission like movies used to do back in the old days? Sitting still that long was killer.