Written by by Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Ian McKellen
Bilbo Baggins: Can I help you?
Gandalf: That remains to be seen.
When they first announced that J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, THE HOBBIT, was being made into a movie, I don't think anyone was the least bit surprised. The trilogy had won tons of awards and had made billions of dollars around the world. To not make this movie would have just been bad business. That being said, taking Tolkien's work, which as I understand it, is shorter than all of his other previously filmed novels, and then turning that work into three 3-hour films doesn't just feel like overkill but it feels like a fleecing to me - a direct attempt to squeeze money out of fan's pockets conveniently disguised as a special extended project made just for them. Perhaps fans, of which admittedly, I am not, will consider this a gift but to me, it feels more like a punishment.
The titular hobbit here is Bilbo Baggins, a character we all met in the original series but whom now we are meeting as a much younger hobbit, played with great jubilance by Martin Freeman. One seemingly ordinary day, he gets a knock on the door from a very familiar wizard, Gandalf (once again portrayed by Sir Ian McKellan). Gandalf wants the hobbit to join him on an adventure, which sounds innocent enough, but essentially involves joining a band of dwarves who want to reclaim their land from a dragon that has taken possession of it. After some initial hesitation, Bilbo gets on board and off they go. This quest is far less compelling to me than the focused effort to destroy a certain infamous ring. There are just too many dwarves to care about and, seeing as Bilbo was never truly sure he wanted to be there, it was very difficult for me to muster any desire to stick around either. The gang get into battle after battle as they make their way, but it isn't until the last third of the film where any of it seems to matter. And by then, I was just waiting for everything finish.
It has been some time since I last saw any LORD OF THE RINGS film but THE HOBBIT felt distinctly different to me. Peter Jackson is once again at the helm of this massive project but the attention and care that he put into those films felt lacking for me here. Much of the imagery felt more cartoonish than fantastical and much of the camera work felt designed specifically for a 3D adventure ride. It simply lacked the gravitas that grounded the previous films and made them not only believable for even the less involved viewer (like myself), but also gave them the footing to stand very tall and very proud as some of the best fantasy films ever made. THE HOBBIT just feels tacked on at the end, like an aside or something. I don't know about you but I've never seen an afterthought stretched out to eight or nine hours before and, at this point, I doubt very much I will still be there to find out how the whole thing ends.