Twitter Plot Summary: Young Bilbo Baggins goes on an adventure with a group of Dwarfs who wish to reclaim their mountain home from a dragon.
Five Point Summary:
1. Hobbiton. It’s as if it never went away.
2. That’s a lot of dwarfs. And a lot of singing.
3. Some troll-related stuff. Feels like we’ve seen this before.
4. Riddles in the Dark. Awesome.
5. Bilbo’s accepted. About time, too.
It’s back to Middle Earth for Peter Jackson as the long-gestating project of The Hobbit finally made its way to our screens in 2012. After much back and forth over the film rights and discussions over who would take the director’s chair, it was Lord of the Rings (LOTR) helmer Peter Jackson who finally stepped back into the director’s chair after Guillermo del Toro dropped out due to scheduling issues. Set some years before Jackson’s epic trilogy, Bilbo joins a band of Dwarfs and Gandalf (a returning Ian McKellen) on a quest to reclaim their kingdom under the mountain which has since been controlled by the dragon Smaug. In a similar way to Frodo’s quest, they head south and have a number of adventures along the way. Meanwhile Gandalf and fellow wizard Radagast investigate the rise of an evil sort known only as The Necromancer, which as we all know will lead directly into the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Martin Freeman steps into the younger shoes of Bilbo Baggins (previously played by Ian Holm in LOTR and who makes a cameo in the movie’s introduction), bringing an everyman quality to the character that is his staple. Despite the 2.5 hour plus running time, that is still not enough to give all of the dwarfs any real character. There were too many of them in the book and subsequently there are too many in the film. There’s also too much singing – if their quest is that urgent then stop warbling and get moving. The dwarfs may receive additional depth in the sequels, but for now at least they’re a hairy bunch of people we don’t know all too well. Gandalf is the same as he was previously, which is no bad thing. Radagast is played with an air of insanity by Sylvester McCoy, who we don’t see enough of in my opinion. His Radagast is linked directly to the natural world, to the point where he has birds living under his hat and their droppings run down his hair. Hardly what you’d usually expect from a wizard, but that’s how it is.
One of the key highlights is Riddles in the Dark between Gollum and Bilbo. Much like in the book, it’s the most powerful sequence and is given plenty of room to breathe within the individual arc of the movie. It’s great to see Andy Serkis back as Gollum and again acts as a marker for why Gollum hates Hobbits and the Baggins household so much by the time he meets Frodo, and again sets up later events. An addition to the book sees the party being chased by a group of Orcs. This gives events a greater sense of urgency, one that in my most humble of opinions was lacking in Tolkien’s original text.
Ahead of release there was much grumbling about the 48 frames per second version of the film, which perhaps fortunately was not available in the majority of my local cinemas. It’s likely a result of the higher frame rate, but the CGI looks a little bit iffy in places, which is a shame given the sterling work completed on the LOTR trilogy and that we’ve had nearly 10 years of advances in CGI in the interim. Many also complained about the fact that this first Hobbit movie was too similar to the Lord of the Rings, but it’s from the same director and creative team so I’m not sure what they were expecting to be different. There is a good argument against stretching the story out to three films when two would have been enough, but otherwise it works as the opening entry to a new trilogy and tells a complete story. The slightly whimsical tone fits with the one in the book, however putting focus on a hedgehog called Sebastian, however briefly, does take some wind out of the sails. Okay, so there is an overall feeling of Lord of the Rings-Lite to it, but given how well that trilogy was received, is that necessarily a bad thing?