Last night, I saw this movie with my family. I also recently read the entire novel, so I will add some comparisons between the movie and Tolkien's work.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
This movie is the start of a trilogy that is loosely based off of Tolkien's child novel "The Hobbit," a prequel to the entire "Lord of the Rings" novels. Bilbo Baggins is living in Bag End, content to live a simple life filled with comfort and security. However, the wizard Gandalf has other plans. He ropes Bilbo into going on "an adventure" with thirteen dwarves, led by Thorn Oakenshield, who want to regain their homeland Erebor from the dragon Smaug. Along the way, Bilbo will face trolls, goblins, wizards, wargs, and even Gollum, who possesses a magical ring that makes Bilbo invisible when he puts it on, and he will need plenty of courage to go onwards.
The movie's plot is about the first six chapters of "The Hobbit," but Jackson has added more to the story, like the White Council's doings and the rise of the Necromancer in Mirkwood (which were briefly mentioned in "The Hobbit" but were given in more detail in appendices of "Lord of the Rings"). Not only that, but Jackson has added extra things not in the books at all, such as the grudge between Azog and Thorin (which would have never happened because in the book Azog was dead long before the company set out for Erebor; but that's beside the point). Even though I thought the White Council sub-plot was a good addition to the story, the other additions like the Azog/ Thorin grudge did not fit in well because it was not in the original works. Other parts of the plot were deviations from the original that I was not overly fond of, like Bilbo being the one who keeps the trolls arguing until daylight, Bilbo's encounter with Gollum happening concurrently with the dwarves facing the Goblin King instead of at separate times, or even certain twistings of Middle Earth's history, like the whole thing with the Necromancer resurrecting the Witch-King of Angmar; however, I do admit I am a stickler for details when it comes to book/ movie adaptations, so some people might not care about that.
The movie is a rather long one, being far longer than any of the "Lord of the Rings" movies, and it can get tiring after a while. By the time the White Council was finishing up their meeting, I was beginning to feel restless in the theater, and I've heard other people saying the same thing. It did not help that certain scenes were either added or drawn out. For example, I thought the whole chase scene with Radagast, the company, and the goblins was unnecessary, and I thought the affair with the goblins and the Goblin King seemed too long in comparison to the shorter confrontation in the book. I'm still wondering how on earth Jackson is going to release extended version of already long movie, but I suspect it is more of a moneymaking opportunity than anything else.
One final thing about the movie's general plot. I've read complaints from other reviewers about the amount of humor in "The Hobbit" and how it seems unbalanced compared to some of the darker aspects of the story, like the Necromancer and Dol Guldur. I did enjoy the dwarves being comic at times because that was pretty much the tone of the original book. Even though I understand that "The Hobbit" is a much lighter-hearted story than "Lord of the Rings," the movie is still darker than the original. Because of this, there were a few scenes that, to me, seemed almost silly, a little too light-hearted even for the book, like the scenes with the Goblin King and Bilbo's encounter with Gollum.
In general, the characters were pretty good. Martin Freeman did a very good Bilbo; he just looks like he could be a hobbit who loves his comfortable life in his comfortable hole. I had previously seen Richard Armitage in "North and South" (not counting his brief role in "Captain America: The First Avenger"), and originally I was a bit hesitant at the news that "Mr. Thornton is playing Thorin." However, Armitage did a very good job at capturing Thorin's prideful, stubborn self. I also liked the characters of Balin, Fili, and Kili, and the other dwarves were well-picked. Radagast was an interesting character, and I admit I'm not fully sure what I think of his addition to the movie. There are also old characters like older Bilbo, Frodo, Elrond, Gandalf, Saruman, and Galadriel who show up in the movie, and you can tell that a few of them have definitely aged/ grown up ever since the Trilogy was released.
To this day, the "Lord of the Rings" soundtrack remains one of my favorite soundtracks to listen to and be inspired by. However, I was a bit disappointed in the soundtrack for "The Hobbit." There are some of the old familiar themes, but there are a couple of new ones that I'm still getting used to. One thing I was very disappointed in was the use of the "Nazgul theme" when Thorin challenged Azog; it completely did not fit, and I've heard complaints about that from other people, especially since Howard Shore did such a good job with the themes on the Trilogy's soundtrack. I wasn't impressed either by the song that was played over the credits. However, for a pro, I did enjoy the songs from the book that were added into the movie, like the dwarves singing when they throw Bilbo's dishes around or in their other song about Erebor (that song sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it).
As for special effects, I'm not sure. I'm not sure if it was because of the way the movie was filmed or if it was because it was on a large screen, but the effects looked a little fake, especially in comparison to the Trilogy's. I did like, however, the brief glances into Erebor at the height of its glory and the town of Dale before Smaug's arrival; it was nice to see both the cultures of dwarves and elves, especially since we didn't get to see much of either in the original Trilogy, and I was impressed with the sets for those.
It is hard to put "The Hobbit" on the same level as "Lord of the Rings" because the two stories are so different in their tone and content, and so I admit that I probably should not compare the two. However, to me, there is a difference between two related stories who are of equal quality; it sort of reminds of me of the comparison between "Alien" and "Aliens," which are different but both are still enjoyable for their own separate reasons. For me, "The Hobbit" was a step below the quality of original Trilogy (which had its own issues), and so was not as memorable. I was glad I saw it, and there were parts that I did enjoy, but overall it was only an ok movie to me.
I give it three out of five stars.
In Memoriam Pádraig Duggan
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