Having never read J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, I was immediately mesmerized by The Lord of the Rings trilogy; enamored by the story, characters and intriguing backdrop. Needless to say, when it was announced that Peter Jackson would work on The Hobbit, and turn it into another trilogy no less, I was excited once again.
The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins’ journey to the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which has been taken over by a massive, fire-breathing dragon known as Smaug. In the opening moments of the film, we learn about how Smaug’s quest for gold takes him to the kingdom, where he eventually finds a home beneath the Lonely Mountain. It’s in these scenes, filled with brutality and death, that we realize that this is no movie for young children. Before long, we’re taken back to the Shire, where we see Bilbo (Ian Holm, from The Lord of the Rings) enjoying his day and and writing his memoirs on the day of his birthday, from where the LOTR trilogy kicks off. Even Frodo (Elijah Wood) makes a cameo as he’s shown chatting it up with his uncle before he heads off to meet with Gandalf to discuss the festivities for the evening. However, before that all takes place, Bilbo looks back at his old adventures, which takes us back 60 years to where the story takes place.
A younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman) finds himself visited by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) who tries to convince him to join him on an adventure that Bilbo doesn’t seem too fond of. Though Gandalf doesn’t seem too thrilled by Bilbo’s reluctance to join him. Of course, Gandalf isn’t exactly one to take no for an answer and Bilbo is soon joined by a group of dwarves who are told to meet at his house. Bilbo is chosen to be the “burglar” in their mission and though some convincing tactics appear to fail, he ultimately joins them on the arduous adventure. The story takes our brave group, headed by dwarf warrior Thorin Oakensheild through wastelands, mountains and goblin tunnels as they deal with orcs, goblins and of course, Bilbo’s encounter with a curious creature - Gollum.
The beauty of Bilbo’s entire confrontation with Gollum, is that we get to finally see how he winds up with the “precious” (ring) and the interaction between the two is golden. As the film is the first of three, don’t go in expecting anything to be settled but the pace of the film is easy to follow and doesn’t require that you know any real background on the story.
The Dolby Atmos Experience: The Hobbit has a variety of options for moviegoers - namely seeing the film as usual, as well as in 3D, in 48fps, in 3D with 48fps and even in IMAX; I went ahead and watched the film presented in the new Dolby Atmos. For those that aren’t familiar with the technology, it first debuted with Disney’s Brave back in June and has been used on a handful of flicks, but none as big (save for Brave) as The Hobbit. The audio processor allows for 128 discrete tracks and up to 64 speakers for a truly immersive experience. The theater made use of a number of height speakers on the ceiling which added a sort of 3D audio effect. Though not every scene made the best use of the technology, there were a few that really stood out. The early scene in the movie where the dragon Smaug is invading Erebor, the swooshing sounds of the dragon flying through the air rattled the height speakers and made it feel like he was flying over your head, while the battle scenes enveloped me and put me right in the action. Another scene had a trio of cave trolls attempting to figure out how they’d cook themselves some dwarves, that was set up in a way that when they talked to each other, it appeared that one of them was sitting right next to you. In fact, the effect was so strong, that I literally jumped and looked to my right as I thought someone was talking to me. However the coolest scene was by a far during an exchange between Bilbo and Gollum, in which Gollum was elevated and moving around in a circular fashion above Bilbo (trying to freak him out) that was life-like and caused various movie watchers to look above their heads with huge smiles on their faces.
At nearly three hours long, The Hobbit certainly has some slow spots that feel like the story was stretched out artificially in order to fill up time, but overall, it’s an enjoyable experience that deserves not only one but a second or even third sit-through, if only to experience the other formats.
With the second film expected at the end of the year and the third in 2014, I can’t wait to see how the story continues to unfold.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5