I've seen it at last! I have to say that for the most part, the movie is mostly sensational, it really is. I have stayed away from attempting to write a detailed review, the dozens I have glanced over today mostly do it far more justice then I ever could do. However, I did want to say a few things, if only as an excuse to post more pictures from the film.
The plus points…..
One of the strengths of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was the casting of the multitude of characters. Time and effort had obviously been put into choosing the not just the main individuals but also those who had less 'air-time' - Craig Parker as Haldir is a perfect case in point with his emotive and sensitive portrayal of the doomed Elf……yes, Tolkien purists, I know that the movie took liberties with the book's account of Haldir's Elves. It worked I tell you, it worked!
"What do you mean, I'm too tall to be a Dwarf?"
The same can immediately be said of The Hobbit, again the cast is superb. For me, the really interesting friendship arc of the story is that of the one between Thorin and Bilbo. Richard Armitage as Thorin is excellent, providing the audience glimpses of depth within his character that the novel rarely examines. In the book we witness him superficially as grim and ill-tempered for the majority of the journey. Whereas director, Peter Jackson provides us with a real texture to Thorin's personality by adding the back story which was taken largely from the appendices of The Return of the King. It was great to see the relationship of Balin and Thorin expanded too, Ken Scott was marvellous as the former. This went a long way in answering one of my questions as to just how a short novel could be expanded into three long movies..... Oh me of little faith.
'I do look like Ian Holme, honest!"
Martin Freeman is a wonderful Bilbo. He balances the combination of comedic and dramatic timing outstandingly. Some of the scenes are noticeably touching, particularly in some of the exchanges with the Dwarfs and especially when he decides to spare Gollum. Nothing is said, his facial expression is perfectly conveys his sympathy for the pathetic creature . His meeting with Gollum and the game of riddles, if anything, further improves on how it was conveyed in the book. Again the portrayal of Gollum was sublime, seeing the dual personalities arguing and competing against each other give a genuine depth to him that Tolkien was never ably to in the book.
A couple of minor quibbles…..
"No, I am not related to Jar-Jar Binks"
One significant disappointment was the inclusion of the Wizard, Radagast the Brown, played by Sylvester McCoy. When I first heard that the character who had been omitted from the 'Rings' trilogy was to be included I was pretty happy, this is the wizard who refused to take stand against Sauron and to inspire Men, Elves, Dwarves and all free people of Middle-Earth for good. Instead he "turned his back on the affairs of men and became more interested with the ways of nature", thereby protecting the world from Sauron in a much different way.
However, this movie sees him as nothing more than a hedgehog doctor who travels around on a sleigh pulled by rabbits. The scene where he and his rabbit sleigh evaded the Wargs while Thorin's band ran around like the Keystone Cops was frankly ridiculous. Radagast's free-floating intrusion into the main storyline again hints at a lazy plot-device. More importantly, he comes across as something of a clown, a figure to provide some comic interlude.
"I'll just pop round to the pub over in Mordor"
My second 'teeny weeny' little gripe is in regard to one of the many strengths of the original work, which was Tolkien's strict observance of a time line presented in his books by constant referrals to phases of the moon……(cue cries of Geek Alert!!)…... As in the Rings trilogy, people who aren't familiar the books could be excused for believing that much of the story takes place with a few square miles in just a few days. Yet the story takes place over many many hundreds of square miles over a period of months and years (the distance between the Shire and Rivendell is just over 300 miles itself), we never get the true feeling of that in the film….…just a minor gripe.
But lets accentuate the positives…..
I fully understand that for those who haven't not read the The Hobbit this film might feel a little long and perhaps boring in parts. That's something that seems to have been mentioned in one or two of the reviews from newspapers that frankly seem snobbish in their appraisal - John Walsh's piece in the Independent was especially patronising and dismissive in both of the genre and its fans.
Oh blimey does the film look good. The New Zealand scenery is as truly breath-taking as ever, the sets are exquisite, the special effects stunning.
I thought the pace of prologue was perfect and I enjoyed immensely being immersed in the introductory scenes in Bag End. The linkage between the beginning of the Hobbit and the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring was particularly inspired. I loved the visual interpretation. I loved the Dwarfs and the Trolls. I loved revisiting the Shire and Rivendell ….and so did the packed cinema that I saw the film in.
I CAN'T WAIT FOR PART 2!