A friend of mine typed the word “Aarg!” into a chat window during a DDO game in exclamation at the apparently startling revelation that I had never read The Hobbit. I gather it’s a common supposition to have read the book considering I’ve been playing the likes of Dungeons & Dragons with him for the best part of a decade, but I’d have told him if he had ever asked. I thought it best not to add I had never read so much as one of Tolkien’s short stories [and I’m confident his world would probably fall apart if I told him in truth I’d never actually read a single fantasy novel in my life, no not one]. I just want to be sure that I’m framing for you the fact that my sum total of knowledge of Tolkien’s work is entirely from watching all three Lord of the Rings movies several times [and a few of the DVD extras].
Needless to say I’ve already stated in the past that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the greatest movie trilogy of all time* so the news that they were adapting The Hobbit was expected and believed partly necessary to truly cement LotR in cinematic history. The production cycle however was quite tumultuous. Some of you may recall during the life cycle of 2IGTV that Mark and I discussed the status of what was presumed to be Guillermo Del Toro’s project that seemed to change seasonally. Eventually there was light, a green light, money flowed in and filming began - instead under the direction of Peter Jackson once again. Since then, anticipation was as palpable as it was for Fellowship of the Ring and finally ended for me on December 12th.
So knowing only for sure that I’d see the characters of Bilbo, Gandalf and “some dwarf who would become Gimly’s father,” I entered Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [in 3D**] with high hopes and even higher standards. I was not disappointed. Jackson literally re-created another chunk of Middle Earth upon the already magnificent landscape of New Zealand, only this seems brighter and more lush in every sense of the words. It can be easily thought of as a world which had yet to fall to the corruption of the evil witnessed in LotR. Frodo and Samwise’s epic walking tour through Middle Earth spanning three whole movies prepared my patience [and my arse] for yet another band of fantasy creatures to make another road trip but despite the preparation [and knowing that New Line had forced Jackson to stretch out a 300 page book to span 3 whole movies instead of two] I was still expecting to the shouting “Get on with it!” in Monty Pythonesque fashion at some point. Imagine my surprise when the credits began rolling just as I was beginning to get into it. I’ve been to many 2.5+ hour movies in my day but this is the first time I have never felt a single moment pass and was genuinely shocked to discover that hours had passed since I had opened my bag of Peanut M&M’s.
The dwarf's plight is told through similar flashback exposition to LotR’s ring origin and tells the story of a magnificent dwarf kingdom laid to ruin by a powerful dragon, exiling the dwarfs and scattering their civilisation. Martin Sherlock Freeman takes the reigns as Bilbo Baggins and with everyone’s favourite wizard, Gandalf [Sir Ian McKellan] and Richard Armatage as dwarf-prince Thorin Oakenshield, they lead a lively, hilarious yet heroic band of dwarfs through exotic locales, some familiar, some new as well as meet characters we both know or never before heard tale of on their epic journey of adventure. Sir Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Kate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Sir Christopher Lee and even Elijah Wood all reprise their famous roles from LotR [although I’m lead to understand that half of that lot are playing characters that never even appeared in the original novel]. They make the transition to this new saga all the more memorable. Canadian composer Howard Shore returned to provide a rich melodic score to the soundscape of the movie reintroducing us to many of his original themes as well as creating a few new ones to highlight this “same but different” adventure. While the 3D was unusually perfect and not used as gimmicky as other movies I reckon I’d have been just as happy with the 2D, it’s an enhancement, not a necessity.
While we are led to understand that Sauron’s corruption is just beginning, the main tale here is one of simply going home rather than saving the world from evil – that will come later in history as we’ve already seen – but for now and the next two movies, we are to be content with our merry band of dwarfs evicting their unwanted house guest and keeping would-be orcish invaders off their front lawn. No the whole world doesn’t have to be under threat for a movie such as this to be exciting, just one little part of it.
Final Verdict: With lush visuals, superb CGI, world-class acting, a sharp script and a flawless score it was nothing short of excellent; so much so that I actually went twice!
Colonel Creedon Rating: *****
* Just to reiterate - I consider Star Wars to be religion not a series of movies
** I did not chose 3D either time I went to it. Technical difficulty with the 2D presentation on the day of release and unmanageable 2D scheduling on the following Saturday necessitated the need to see the 3D presentation twice. My 3D rejection contract is not broken as these issues are covered under clause [E] force mejure..