I was totally stoked when I heard Peter Jackson planned to make The Hobbit! Now, almost a year later, the prequel to the beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy has finally arrived. It’s the first of another trilogy that follows young hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he leaves his comfortable home in The Shire for a dwarf and danger filled adventure to the Lonely Mountain. According to a recent trailer, critics already call it a “visually stunning” “movie of the year.”
Any LOTR fan knows it requires a solid commitment between backside and chair to finish one of the three-hour installments. The Hobbit is no different. I’ll confess right away, The Hobbit was noticeably three hours (or darn near three hours). Some moments called for dramatic shifting in my seat or cramming ropes of red licorice in my mouth to keep alert. Despite this, the commitment is worth the while. The acting was strong, the score beautiful, the cinematography dazzling, and the script pleasantly peppered with humor.
Martin Freeman strikes a nice balance between clumsy and brave as young Bilbo. His performance is both endearing and genuine. To me though, the real gem is Richard Armitage… and his portrayal of King Thorin who leads the journey to recover the dwarf kingdom. I fell head over heels for Armitage in the 2004 BBC miniseries North & South. Even with longer locks and scruffy facial hair, the pensive eyes and deliciously deep voice come through, bringing gravity, tenderness, and strength to the brooding king. Familiar faces include Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Cate Blanchett (stunning as ever) as Galadriel. Ian Holm returns as old Bilbo and opens the film with a narration that made me feel like a kid at story time.
But almost more important to me than the acting is a movie’s music. Howard Shore’s sweeping and layered orchestral score doesn’t disappoint. It heightens every scene from breathtaking New Zealand landscape to intense CG action, including a surprising and entertaining mountain fight!
I’m happy to say there are several memorable scenes—all sprinkled with a delightful humor that separates it from the LOTR trilogy. Be ready to feel a simultaneous impulse to laugh and cover your eyes at the hilarity and creepiness of Gollum (Andy Serkis). The script was masterfully written and delivered to make you truly feel as unsettled about Gollum’s battling personalities as he is. Though I felt similarly about the character in the LOTR films, I don’t remember laughing quite as much at his lines before!
A recent article reports that for the third weekend in a row The Hobbit is still top dog at the box office. In this case, it’s safe to trust the masses. The film is beating Les Mis and Django Unchained for a reason. While I didn’t leave the theatre amazed, I did leave satisfied and ready for the next installment of a new trilogy.