Ten years ago, Peter Jackson brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece “The Lord of the Rings” to the big screen. It garnered numerous awards, including Academy Awards, and boosted the careers of actors within the movie, such as Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom and make Sir Ian McKellan a household name.
Peter Jackson is back with the prequel to the trilogy, “The Hobbit.” The 300 page book has been made into three full length movies, using material from the appendices of the original trilogy to beef up the content.
The story follows a company of 14, made up of a single hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, BBC’s “Sherlock”), and 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage, BBC’s “MI-5”), to reclaim the dwarves home Erebor from the dragon Smaug, and the treasure within the mountain. Bilbo is recruited by Gandalf (McKellan) to be the group’s burglar.
Along their travels they visit Rivendell, and Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving) of the elves, and encounter a group of trolls who are tired of eating mutton.
The movie ends with a strengthening tie between Thorin and Bilbo, when the latter assists in the battle with Azog, saving Thorin’s life, on the heels of their escape from the Goblin King and his kingdom.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the movie was the reappearance of Gollum, who has not quite been made into the angry creature he w became after the loss of the One Ring. A game of riddles between Gollum and Bilbo takes place in the bottom of a mountain, as the dwarves escape from the goblins, and Bilbo seeks to rejoin them. Andy Serkis gives another award worthy motion capture performance for the creature, as we are reintroduced to the character.
In part one of the new trilogy, Smaug, the main threat to the company, is not seen except for flashes of wing and fire.
Purists of the book will notice changes and additions, such as Azog the Destroyer being the main antagonist, instead of his son, and the more prominent Necromancer plotline. By this time, Tolkien had not fleshed out this character to be the Dark Lord Sauron, which wouldn’t happen until a decade later when he wrote the original trilogy.
Other parts are that audiences now see what Gandalf the Grey is up to during the times he is not with the dwarves, and begins to build the bridge between this trilogy and the one set after it.
The worst part of the movie was its length. Jackson is attempting to replicate the original trilogy it seems, and the 169 minute run time is about 45 minutes too long. The film, while epic and adventurous, seems a bit sluggish as it tries to sort itself out and establish the mission and the threats to it.
Part one serves primarily as set up for the next two films, with enough action to let it stand on its own. Audiences can only wait until next December to see whether Jackson can deliver as planned with this smaller material as he did with its larger literary descendants. Until then, “The Hobbit” maintains its child-friendly origins and is an adventure to be had and a song, “Over the Misty Mountains Cold,” to be hummed for hours afterwards.