Middle Earth was wonderfully brought to life in Peter Jackson’s acclaimed Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and now, with the release of The Hobbit, audiences have a chance to return to J. R. R.Tolkien’s rich world. Jackson’s latest foray into Middle Earth doesn’t quite match the awe and spectacle of the original trilogy, but for many that won’t matter too much. It’s just good to be back.
The timid hobbit Bilbo Baggins is a homebody, plain and simple. He’d prefer a pipe and a hearty meal to an adventure any day. So when the mysterious wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves appear requesting Bilbo’s presence on an adventure, the little hobbit is thrust into a world both perilous and surprising. The outcome of this quest will not only change Mr. Baggins, it will determine the fate of Middle Earth.
Much like Bilbo Baggins slips the One Ring onto his finger, Martin Freeman slips into the role of Mr. Baggins comfortably and effortlessly. He brings a certain degree of honesty to the role that is necessary to make audiences connect with and care for the character. Freeman pulls off the role in such a fashion that viewers will have come to care for him deeply by the time the credits roll.
Ian McKellen makes a welcome return as Gandalf the Grey, and many will be sent into fits of excitement when he first steps onscreen. For me, simply seeing McKellen don the pointed hat and grey robes again is worth the price of admission.
Richard Armitage plays the grim dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield, who turns out to be the focus of much of the movie. It is Thorin’s thirst for revenge and eagerness to regain his former glory that drives this quest, and Armitage does an excellent job conveying his character’s bitterness.
One of the film’s most glaring faults is its tendency to shift its focus from one character to another. The first forty-five minutes of the movie are spent introducing Bilbo, then the focus quickly shifts to Thorin. Three fourths of the film center around the dwarf king and explore his motives and his past. In fact, our titular hero is notably absent for at least thirty minutes of the film. The focus doesn’t return to Bilbo, the true protagonist of the story, until the last twenty minutes of the movie.
The beefed up story and unnecessary filler don’t work well either. The first hour and a half of the film is a chore to watch, and by the time Bilbo and company set out on their adventure, viewers are already exhausted. Then Jackson decides to sloppily throw in side stories and characters from Tolkien’s other books, and it becomes clear rather quickly that those scenes are filler and nothing more.
That being said, there are also some truly memorable and exciting moments in the film. The film’s pace increases to a full sprint(literally), and after watching Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves pull off escape after escape, viewers will be left breathless and excited for the next installment. The only catch is, we have to sit through ninety minutes of nothing to get any kind of payoff.
Despite its sluggish start and excruciating attention to detail, The Hobbit manages to be a fun, visually pleasing, and nostalgic film that serves as a welcome reintroduction to Tolkien’s incredible world.
3 out of 5 stars