Written By: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis
“Baggines? What is Bagginses?… Precious. “
You what? A trilogy? They are turning the Hobbit into an epic trilogy, on the same scale as the Lord of the Rings, with each film over 2 and half hours long? What are you thinking Jackson?
Well, actually on the evidence of this first instalment it turns out he knows exactly what he is doing, as usual.
Despite lingering suspicions of the studios having stretched this out on one of those medieval stretchy rack things, all for their big fat profits, on top of the obvious concerns over the comparatively limited source material in the book, this first section of the Hobbit actually confounds all reason. It actually feels like there is much more meat on the bones when compared to the similar ‘Hobbits on an adventure’ tale of the Fellowship of the Ring and by the end it bizarrely feels like some sections could have gone on for much longer and hopefully in the extended DVD release they will.
This isn’t anything really to do with the density of the Hobbit, or Jackson’s abilities to drag out every word and appendix reference scribbled down by Tolkien (which, admittedly, he does do). It is more a sign that the Lord of the Rings films should in truth have been 6 or 7 large instalments, but that would perhaps be pushing the attention spans for the majority of the audience just a little too far. Shawn of the pivotal but time consuming epic battles, each aspect of the Hobbit is given time to breath and unfold as it needs to. In short, Jackson has been freed up from agonising questions over which parts to leave out and allowed to run riot.
Given his vast wealth of directing experience, and the calibre of the other names involved in imagining the final product, Jackson has done everything he needs to do in terms of translating a story book into a masterful visual experience. Entire events which might have been summarised in quick, neatly structure sentence’s have here been expanded out into gargantuan set pieces pumped up by the nerve shredding soundtrack.
Compared to the darker and often portentous tones of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit is much more willing to embrace the more comical and innocent aspects of Tolkien’s world, which at first feels slightly awkward and unwelcome. From the cockney Troll’s to the Brown Wizard who walks around with bird shit streaked in his hair and is pulled around on a bunny rabbit powered sleigh, there are moments which veer a little too close to the twee Harry Potter side of fantasy. But eventually the sheer limitless of imagination and wonder wins out and it becomes difficult to wipe the childish grin of your face as the unlikely band of hero’s encounter the next twisted bunch of Middle Earth’s denizens.
From the moment Gollum turns up in the final hour and a half, the Hobbit is simply breathtaking and Jackson lets rip with every cinematic instinct in his bones. One iconic scene after another is effortlessly fired out right up until the last second.
This is a no-brainer really. Fans of Lord of the Rings will know exactly what to expect and will be getting more of the same goodness only polished with modern effects and fired up by a director reaching the top of his game. Despite this being a much more accessible and charming adaptation of Middle Earth than LoTR, those who simply can’t abide fantasy will most likely be even more repulsed by the heightened fairy tale aspects, and should not expect anything different.
But then those fools would be missing out because The Hobbit feels like a true cinema experience and makes other recent blockbuster’s feel hollow and soulless in comparison. For 2 and half hours the outside world will melt away and the internet will become a distant memory. Only once the credits begin to roll will the crushing dreariness of reality begin to seep back in.