The first part of a trilogy from Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings. Bilbo Baggins entertains dwarves and travels with them and Gandalf. The dwarves want their Kingdom back. Bilbo comes along because he can steal. There is a dragon, it’s name is Smoug. They meet giant trolls, then the Brown Wizard who helps them when Orcs attack. They have adventures in the Orc cave, elves help them, Bilbo encounters Gollum. More fights with Orcs…
Critics have complained that Jackson’s Hobbit is too long but this, I think, misses the point. The forest is a place you can linger in whether or not you are a fan. Furthermore making three films from a much shorter book than Lord of the Rings might seem like using a pile driver to crack an egg, but I don’t agree, why can’t Jackson expand the original story which is hardly great literature in the first place. This is as much Jackson’s film as Tolkein’s story. Admittedly the dwarves’ party at Bilbo’s house does last too long but generally The Hobbit goes along at quite a pace. The trolls are disgusting giants, there’s nothing antiseptic about this world, for all the ‘Dingley Dell’ cutesiness of the language. I bet such giants would stink terribly. Bilbo is played by Martin Freeman who is quite down to earth and likeable, which is a relief after those google eyed midgets from The Lord of the Rings. Ian McKellan is a wizard for all seasons and anchors the film with his good acting. He is like Bilbo’s father and he is his mentor, effortlessly assuming these roles. The dwarves themselves are the usual prosthetic midgets with too much beard and anger issues. The ‘Tolkein Scary Appearance Award’ must go to the Orcs who hound Bilbo and the dwarves. The big King of the underground has a huge goitre and the Orc leader who chases them has a creepily detailed face. The Orcs in Hobbit look more individualized than those of Lord of the Rings with their indistinguishably dripping wax masks.
There is general agreement that the star of The Hobbit is Gollum, played by Andy Serkis. It’s truly entertaining to watch the latexed lemur facial expressions. He crawls around like a white tanned anorexic in a squirming snivel, compensating for deviousness with pantomimic wit that usually runs rings (pun intended) around hobbits. The Brown Wizard is covered in birdshit and looks like a fairytale maniac as he drives around on a sled drawn by rabbits. We had a lot of running around in Lord of the Rings and we got the same here, but the forest scenes are quite impressive, dense with fantasy. The elves are a bit of a joke, they’re so pompously dignified you hope a dwarf will chuck rotten fruit at them. Cate Blanchett looks like a fashion statement on tranquilizers, her sonorous intonations can be unintentionally funny. It’s nice to see Christopher Lee upsetting the elfish pieties at the council table, no doubt preparing for his future as a bad guy. The elvish Kingdom is all pre-Raphaelite spectacle. This film is good fun.