Art by Me. Smaug by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Ok, I’d like to start things out by saying that I’m a HUGE Tolkien fan. Ever since I first saw Fellowship of the Ring back in 2001, I’ve loved the Legendarium that Tolkien cooked up all by himself from just after WWI to his death in the 1970s. So, yeah, guess you could say I’m a bit biased in me saying that I loved the big screen adaptation of the first part of The Hobbit. But never mind that, it’s also an extremely well-done movie.
So, what’s The Hobbit about? Well, if you’re one of the few people who haven’t read it in its 80+ years in publication, here’s a quick synopsis. Bilbo Baggins is the titular Hobbit who lives the good life in the Shire. He spends most of his days tending his garden, reading his mail, eating and smoking pipeweed. That is, until one day, when the great wizard Gandalf came to his door, asking if he wanted to join in an adventure. Bilbo, being the hobbit that he is, did not want anything to do with an adventure, however Gandalf catches a hint of curiosity in the hobbit, so he marks the hobbit’s door. Later on, while Bilbo is sitting down for a nice, quiet supper, he is interrupted by a large group of 13 rowdy dwarves who barge into his home to hold a party. Bilbo is not too pleased with it until Gandalf and a very important dwarf named Thorin Oakenshield come in, and the party changes into a serious meeting. Thorin intends to lead the 13 dwarves to their ancient kingdom of Erebor, located under the Lonely Mountain, far to the west. It used to be a great, prosperous kingdom, until the great dragon Smaug attacked, drove the dwarves away and lay claim to the immense treasure located inside. Thorin intends to take back his kingdom, for he is the heir to it, and kick the dragon out for good. All they need now is a burglar to sneak inside. And Gandalf believes Bilbo to be the perfect candidate. Of course, Bilbo, at first, wants nothing to do with it. Gandalfs continues to try to persuade him, and, after a long night of thinking, Bilbo decides to join the adventure, and off they go. And what an adventure it is. What follows are run-ins with trolls, elves, stone giants, goblins, Gollum and more. Plus a certain golden Ring, and a certain shadowy evil. And the movie only covers the first third of the novel. There’s still a dragon to fight in the next 2 movies.
The movie, like the book, is much lighter in tone than Lord of the Rings. The book was originally written as a children’s novel in the 1930s. However, that doesn’t mean that the book, and even more so, the movie are not without its darker, more serious moments. The movie mixes the tones well, I believe. Also, this movie is close to 3 hours long. While that may be hard for some people, I actually thought it was quite brisk. The pacing was extremely well done. The acting is extremely good as well. There’s no Hollywood actors here. You get a great ensemble cast of thespians and character actors and they bring their all, from Bilbo actor Martin Freeman, to Ian McKellan as Gandalf, to Doctor Who actor Sylvester McCoy as the very eccentric nature-loving wizard Radagast, to all the actors playing the dwarves who each give a unique character to each dwarf, so you’ll never mistake them for each other.
The special effects are great, as to be expected. They really stand out as excellent in 48 fps. What is 48 fps. Well, the average frame speed of your average movie is 24 fps, so this is twice that, giving the movie a lifelike “feel” and a clarity never seen before. This has caused quite a bit of controversy. Some people like it, some don’t. For me, I mostly liked it. There are some scenes where it can look a bit too much like looking at a set, particularly at the beginning, but once you get used to it, you start noticing subtleties and detail you’ve never noticed before. If this becomes the norm, we’ll never look at movies the same way again. It’s definitely a very interesting experiment. If you’re not mentally prepared for 48 fps, then it’s perhaps better for you to watch it in old-fashioned 24 fps where it looks like a regular movie.
Overall, VERY highly recommended. It’s probably my most favorite movie of the year right now. And it was even better on a second viewing. It most definitely fits very well next to the legendary Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Can’t wait to see the next two.
– by Clinton Durham