The saddest bit about the conclusion of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy had nothing to do with Frodo leaving his friends or even that the Fellowship’s mission had come to a definitive conclusion. It was sad that the journey we had taken with J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters was over and there was nothing left for us on the horizon.
After years of fighting and miles of red tape, however, Peter Jackson sunk his bare feet into Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” prologue story: “The Hobbit.” The story centers around Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman—“Sherlock,” “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”), who is conscripted by the wizard Gandalf the Grey into joining a baker’s dozen fellowship of displaced dwarves. The dwarves are seeking to reclaim their usurped mountain kingdom from the ruin of giant, gold-coveting dragon known as Smaug and they have been told—perhaps somewhat fallaciously—that Bilbo is an expert burglar, necessary for the fulfillment of their quest.
“The Hobbit” is beautifully cast with newcomer Freeman adequately filling Ian Holm’s furry feet in Bilbo’s role and Richard Armitage (“Captain America”) cutting the dashing dwarf role of Thorin Oakenshield.
Old friends return from the earlier films, though, lending a familiarity to “The Hobbit” that might have otherwise been lacking. Ian McKellan reprises his role as Gandalf, of course, but Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis also return in their respective reprisals.
Also, WETA Workshop’s digital work has improved in the decade since the last films (not that it was anything to laugh at in the first place), the appearance of Gollum (Serkis) is a highlight of the picture and Howard Shore’s musical score beautifully wedges “The Hobbit” into the rest of the series.
Far less dark a story than “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit” has a more lethargic pacing to it as well. Although it does not suffer for lack of content, Jackson’s presentation does seem somewhat drawn out, similar to his rendition of “King Kong” in 2005. When finally juxtaposed with the twelve-hour “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the complete, presumably nine-hour, “Hobbit” will seem a little unfairly lopsided as a result.
Those remaining parts of “The Hobbit” will be “The Desolation of Smaug” and “There and Back Again,” to be released in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Whether this spreading out of the story is merely a clever marketing tool or an honest attempt to do justice to the source material, fans of Middle Earth have been granted access to that fantastical land for three more years and that alone is worth all the gold in Smaug’s possession.
Ammo Dump rating: 8 out of 10 swords
(Rated PG; 169 min.)
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