What has it got in its pocketses?

This week, one of my favourite books was released as a film. It is, of course, The Hobbit. I’ll keep this post relatively spoiler-free. If any, they’ll be minor at worst.

Since Lord of the Rings, I’ve been eagerly anticipating The Hobbit. The initial choice of Guillermo Del Toro as director, however, concerned me. That’s not because he’s a bad director—not by a long shot—Pan’s Labyrinth worked well for me. The Hobbit has a very different atmosphere than the darkness we often see from Del Toro so I was relieved when Peter Jackson took over.

With a runtime of two hours and forty six minutes, my first thought was how on Middle Earth they could make The Hobbit last so long, never mind split it into three films of similar length. A common complaint I’ve heard is how long the party spend in the Shire without really accomplishing anything. For me, however, it didn’t drag at all, and I think the prologue went some way to achieving that. I don’t mind a long film (although two hours of Twilight sent me to the brink of suffocating myself with the cellophane packaging) and this had plenty going on to keep my interest without feeling like padding.

The visuals are stunning. Some that stand out are the glow of Sting and every shot of Galadriel in Rivendell, particularly when she stands in her white dress, framed by golden sunset over the valley. Her character improved for me in this one. In Lord of the Rings, she came across as sinister, nothing like I remembered her in the books, and I wondered what would possess Frodo to offer her the One Ring. She is far more agreeable in The Hobbit and her secret conference with Gandalf while Saruman was talking gained her all kinds of Brownie points. The most pleasant surprise was the stone giants—hats off to the team for some very impressive effects.

As for characters, I can’t fault the choice of cast. Martin Freeman made an excellent Bilbo and Ian McKellen rocked the pointy hat every bit as much as he did in Lord of the Rings. Radagast, I’m not sure about. He struck me as a hugely caricatured Bill Oddy. It’s obvious enough that he was there for the comedy element although this was hit-and-miss for me. Sometimes it erred on the side of the ridiculous but had other great touches like the bird droppings in his hair. I can’t talk about the characters without mentioning how camp some of the dwarves are. Again, it looks like this was done for comic effect. That said, the dwarves had a fun dynamic and each one was an individual with his own quirks.

Overall, The Hobbit delivers, maintains the epic scale we’ve come to expect from Tolkien’s works and is well worth watching. Do yourself a favour and see it at the cinema though—the big screen and sound are worth it.

 

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