There was a lot at stake for The Hobbit. Would it live up to its Lord of the Rings predecessors? Would Jackson remain true to Tolkien’s work? What lore would he include? Did he have enough to work with for three movies?
I’ve none of the real credentials of a Stephen-Colbert-level aficionado, but since reading and loving The Hobbit in elementary school and LotR parallel the movies, I’ve become something of an admirer of Peter Jackson and his adaptations. Like many Tolkien-lovers, I watched the first installment of my favorite Tolkien book with baited breath, anxiously asking the questions above.
The short answer? Yes. Jackson’s done it again: he’s given us Middle Earth in all its fictional glory. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was three hours of relief to those of us who missed Middle Earth the past decade since Return of the King came out in 2003.
The star-studded cast was everything we hoped: McKellan, Weaving, and Serkis are brilliant in their reprised roles. Martin Freeman might actually be Bilbo Baggins, as far as I’m concerned, and Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords) was delightfully present as Elrond’s bitch elf. Richard Armitage and his sexy-enough-to-rival-Benedict Cumberbatch’s-voice gave Thorin the nuanced delivery he deserved, and Aidan Turner’s (Kili) smile has given fangirls like myself something about besides Orlando Bloom to twitter about.
The deep choir theme for the dwarves called us all back to the hills of New Zealand starting with its mysterious Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold. Musical themes were kept and used appropriately, and Howard Shore’s new score masterfully interwove the quirkier folksy songs like the dwarves’ Chip the Glasses without undue cheesiness.
But this movie was no masterpiece. Flashbacks engaged us Tolkien-lovers, but they dragged the plodding plot off its course. Enjoyable exposition pulled it backward, and delightful interpositions based on Jackson’s previous LotR installments halted it altogether. Frodo has little to no place in his own prequel. Cate Blanchette, Chris Lee, and Ian Holm—though exquisite—were pricey. The brilliance the Unexpected Party and Riddles in the Dark were isolated by relevant but slow backstory.
The over-developed role of Azog (a compilation of himself and his son Bolg) did wonders for centralizing the antagonist of the story as we wait for Benedict Cumberbatch, but his presence changed the character of the story, upping the violence and drama level in an appropriately Hollywood—but not coming-of-age Hobbit—manner. And who knew P.J. had it in him to turn the barely-mentioned Radagast into Middle Earth’s version of Jar-Jar Binks?
But in the end—although some of Gandalf’s lines felt recycled and the Goblin King had to go out with a line finally stupider than Legolas’ “A diversion!”—I am grateful.
Thanks, P.J., for another taste of Middle Earth. Thanks for the rock giant battle, for Sting, Orcrist and Glamdring. Thanks for Erebor and the Misty Mountains. Thanks for the stupidity of trolls, the stubbornness of dwarves, and the brave hearts of hobbits. And thanks for two more movies: we can’t wait.
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