Lovers of Middle-earth: welcome home. Peter Jackson’s first instalment of The Hobbit is the next-best thing to a nostalgia trip, other than actually rewatching The Lord of The Rings trilogy.
Haters of Middle-earth: The Hobbit isn’t going to make you like it better. So do yourself a favour and maybe wait for Quentin Tarantino’s latest, coming around Christmas.
While some people have accused Peter Jackson of ‘cashing-in’ on The Hobbit by stretching it to three films, if you have actually read the book you would know there is actually a wealth of material to be tapped. Author J.R.R Tolkien after all created quite a detailed world, with some of the swords having more back story than some of the characters in the film.
There are many things alluded to in the book that are never really fleshed out in the LOTR books that came later, but revealing those things would spoil it for those who haven’t read it.
The Hobbit’s vistas and stunning scenery certainly will transport you back to Middle-Earth as it was, though enhanced with 3D magic. It was shot in HFR 48fps 3D but it isn’t necessary to watch it in that format to enjoy it. The 3D does add some element of realism to it, though my personal preference is to view it in IMAX as the wider screen really does help you ‘fall into’ the movie. Be prepared to flinch when flames or projectiles come your way.
Not that fire and debris flying about is a spoiler as this is a fantasy film. What fantasy film is complete without some measure of messy battling happening? The action sequences are fun, fast but somewhat ridiculous. Nothing like the epic march of the Rohirrim in Return of the King or Aragon doing some major swashbuckling in Fellowship of the Ring.
As far as casting goes, Peter Jackson was right in saying Martin Freeman was perfect for the role of Bilbo Baggins, the loveable everyman. Or make that ‘everyhobbit’. His performance is nuanced and subtle; so balanced that you just can’t imagine anyone else who measures out just the right amount of pathos and brevity, whatever the need of a scene.
The best bit of the film is of course when Bilbo meets Gollum: the setup of LOTR. To Jackson’s credit, he adds enough little in-jokes that make The Hobbit a very plausible prequel to the earlier trilogy.
But though The Hobbit is fun, it suffers from the typical Peter Jackson bloat. Too many lingering long shots, extra backstory and extraneous characters (Did we really need Sebastian?) and the film would have benefited from more rigorous editing.
Still, as a friend of mine said, I’m glad to declare The Hobbit is certainly not The Phantom Menace to this generation’s Star Wars. It’s much, much better but the only sad bit is that Jackson settled for an adequate film instead of creating a great one.