Ah, Middle-earth, you played such a pivotal role in my childhood. I was the geeky kid at school who had read all the books, went to see the films multiple times and even collected the wee Games Workshop tabletop battle game figures. So as you can imagine I, along with I’m sure many other people of my generation, was incredibly excited to be able to revisit this fantastical land and meet up once again with some of the characters who added such colour to my childhood cinematic experience.
I wasn’t disappointed. Peter Jackson clearly enjoyed revisiting his old haunting grounds and this film really was made with the fans of the original trilogy in mind. There are countless references to The Lord of the Rings, from characters, locations, even the way characters act in scenes is reminiscent of its predecessors, which in my opinion is no bad thing at all.
Before going in I was sceptical at how they would be able to stretch out a book of a little more than 300 pages into as many films as the 1600 page trilogy which came before it (or after it depending on which medium we’re discussing…), but now I know. Although we are following a young Bilbo Baggins on his journey to the Lonely Mountain with Gandalf and a merry band of dwarves, about just as often as we’re focusing on Bilbo we’re in some flashback or sidestory instead. For me, this was fantastic, I love the universe Jackson has created from Tolkien’s many works and being able to see so many elements of it on screen just added to my enjoyment.
There are, admittedly a few faults. Whilst certain effects such as Gollum or the scrotum-faced Goblin King (once you see it, it’s all you’ll see) are downright amazing and have improved on what came before, others seem a little bit faked. There’s also perhaps a song too many, especially in the beginning, which don’t add to the plot in any way and really should have been saved for the inevitable extended edition.
But that doesn’t really matter in the end. This movie wouldn’t have existed if the original trilogy hadn’t been such a success with fans around the world going to see it again and again at the cinema, buying the merchandise, then the DVDs, the extended DVDs, the Blu-rays and so on. And these fans will love being able to once again delve back into this world and see it from a whole new character’s perspective.
Freeman’s Bilbo is great, he manages to tread the line between a wary Hobbit scared to leave Bag End, and the inquisitive young man who doesn’t quite feel at home with his unexciting life in Hobbiton. Ian McKellen’s Gandalf is expectedly awesome, getting back into that costume must have felt like putting on an old pair of slippers for him, and it’s incredible to think that it’s been over a decade since we first saw that old grey robe on the silver screen.
There are of course also those dwarves to deal with, and there are certainly a lot of them. Gandalf has the handy, and clearly intentional, habit of counting and naming them over and over again and it does drum their names into the audience’s heads. Comparisons will obviously be made to the Fellowship, with the Aragorn-dwarf (Thorin), the Legolas-dwarf (Kili), Gandalf-dwarf (Balin), Borimir-dwarf (Dwalin), Gimli-dwarf (Gloin, it is his dad after all), and a couple of others filling in for Merry, Pippin and Sam. Thankfully there’s no Frodo-dwarf as he was, for me anyway, the worst thing about The Lord of the Rings.
If you like The Lord of the Rings then you will love The Hobbit, we’re back in the Middle-earth we love and there’re two more trips to come. If you didn’t like the original trilogy then you perhaps won’t be as enthusiastic, but I think you’ll still enjoy yourself. However there’s only one way to find out, go see it and make up your mind for yourself!
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro; based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen & Richard Armitage
If you’re in the Dundee area you can see The Hobbit at the DCA from now until the 3rd of January. If you’re wondering why I made no mention of the apparently vomit-inducing 48fps, it’s because the DCA are showing it in the reliable 24fps.