My Terribly Important Thoughts on “The Hobbit” Film
And secondly, I saw it in plain old-fashioned 2-D/24fps, none of this ultra fast—I mean, 3-D/45fps malarkey! (And from what I’ve read around t’interwebs, I made exactly the right choice. But hey, call me Luddite et al if you will; I’m good with that.)
Third and most importantly, I really enjoyed it. Certainly, the film was both an older age group, and more The Lord of the Rings (LoTR) compatible, interpretation of the story, delving deeply into the LoTR appendices to bring in story aspects not covered in the original kids’ book. These include the White Council meeting, plus Radogast the Brown’s contribution (although that was more ‘springboarded’ from the books, to be honest)—but as an appendices afficionado, I’m good with the slant taken.
Some of the highlights for me included the leading characters: Martin’s Freeman’s Bilbo is really very good, as is Ian McKellen’s Gandalf (with more hands-on magic and sword-wielding action than in The Lord of the Rings films), plus Andy Serkis reprising his role as Gollum, but giving it added nuance and depth. I also really liked Richard Armitage as Thorin—am not convinced yet that he is another Aragorn as asserted by some, but The Hobbit film is certainly bringing out both the inherent flaws, as well as the nobler qualities of his character, which were an important part of the book.
I also really liked Radogast the Brown and his rabbits. I wasn’t at all sure I was going to like the rabbits, I feared they might just be twee, but for me they worked. (This may, of course, ultimately reflect badly on my worth as an “‘uman bean” but nonetheless: enjoyed Radogast and the rabbits of Rhosgobel immensely! ) Also, for those who missed Tom Bombadil in the LoTR films, I feel Radogast’s interpretation is in the spirit of that character.
And yes, Barry Humphries’ the Great Goblin, and Manu Bennett as Azog, also good.
I did have my doubts about the three movie split going into this first film, but once in it I enjoyed the build to the story, with the Lonely Mountain/Dale backstory and also the Shire scenes, effectively connecting The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings films. And taking the time to really do the story justice, so… So far, so good on that score.
Favourite sequence in the story: I think that would have to be Bilbo, Gollum and the riddle game. Standout stuff. But I did also like Radogast’s solitary venture in Dol Goldur, and the interplay between Gandalf and Galadriel, juxtaposed with Saruman, in the meeting of the Council.
Another thing that really worked for me was the way you did not actually see Smaug at the beginning—just the devastating effects of his assault on Dale and The Lonely Mountain. A ‘less really is more’ moment.
What didn’t I like? Well, I couldn’t help noticing that a lot of the action set pieces riffed off The Lord of the Rings films in quite an obvious way. For example, compare Arwen & Frodo’s ride to the ford with Radogast leading off the warg riders while the dwarves dash for Rivendell. There were also strong similarities between aspects of the flight through Moria with both the mountain gaints’ battle (i.e. walls of rock crashing together and then apart with protagonists on either side) and the escape from beneath the Misty Mountains–including the race down the mountain slope when our party emerges. Perhaps it was intentional to echo LoTR, but the similarities were a little too close for my complete enjoyment.
And yes, although Thorin and Balin may be serious characters, with Fili and Kili (enjoyably played by Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner) as the Merry and Pippin stand-ins for this movie sequence, we do still have—deep sigh—“comic relief dwarf” characters: Nori and Bombur (who is of course the “fat” one: deeper sigh) particularly stand out. While I duly note that The Hobbit was largely a comic story, with a strong love of the ridiculous to many aspects, the fact that there has been scope to move to an older darker take on the book, suggests there could equally readily have been less emphasis on such trite stereotypes.
But while noting these quibbles, my overall experience of the film (Instalment the First) was extremely enjoyable. Adventure, magic, wonder, characters—it checked all my boxes for good Fantasy storytelling and I shall certainly be back for more.