By Charly SHELTON
I am a stickler when it comes to big movies based on classic works. That stands for comic books, for books, for movie remakes – anything. I believe movies should be made just as the work was intended to be presented, not edited and changed to fit whatever the director felt because it usually doesn’t fit with the flow of the story.
When it came to “The Hobbit,” I was apprehensive. It is the shortest book of “The Lord of the Rings” saga (officially a prelude to “The Lord of the Rings”) and director Peter Jackson was making this one book into three movies. In addition, I was rereading the book so it was fresh in my mind. I walked into the screening of “The Hobbit” excited but fully prepared to be disappointed.
Let me just say, I was not disappointed.
“The Hobbit” takes place 60 years before “The Lord of the Rings.” Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm in the LOTR films and, in “The Hobbit” flashbacks, Martin Freeman as a younger Bilbo) is Frodo’s uncle. The film starts with Bilbo narrating his memoirs for Frodo (Elijah Wood) who makes a brief appearance in the film. This leads to a flashback that will last for three movies.
Bilbo as a younger hobbit was perfectly happy living at peace in The Shire, spending his days gardening and merrymaking with friends. It was a comfortable, relaxing life with no surprises or inconveniences. That is until Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellen) comes to whisk Bilbo away on an adventure.
Bilbo joins an adventuring party of dwarves from a kingdom long lost. Their homeland Erebor was the finest and richest of dwarven kingdoms in Middle Earth. Their riches were so massive that it attracted Smaug, the dragon (because it is common knowledge that dragons love gold more than anything). Smaug took the kingdom of Erebor for his own and the dwarves were scattered to the wind. They roamed Middle Earth, took jobs where they could, always hoping that one day they would return to reclaim their homeland. Bilbo is the burglar of their party as they head off to the Lonely Mountain kingdom where Smaug still lived, curled up on a pile of golden dwarven riches that he stole from them so long ago.
Along the way there are perils. Perils which, one might think, may be too great for the little hobbit (for hobbits are only about half the size of men, and three quarters the size of a dwarf) to endure. There are goblins and rock giants and trolls and magic rings and Gollum – and that’s only some from the first movie. As Gandalf said to Bilbo, “You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.”
This first installment of the new franchise was good. Taking a 300-some page book (depending on the print) and turning it into three Peter Jackson movies is no small task. In one printing of the book (Ballantine Books, Del Rey, Film Poster Cover) the first film ends with chapter six, concluding on page 111. The whole book is 305 pages in total.
So to fill three films with this one short book, Jackson had to add a few subplots to lengthen the story. These subplots fit into the story so well that if you weren’t reading the book currently, you wouldn’t have known they weren’t written by J.R.R. Tolkien himself.
So many great books are turned into films that then cut half of the subplots out to save time. It is great to see what the original story, the book of “The Hobbit,” could have been if lengthened. The film not only includes all of the book, but then makes that story bigger and better for the sake of time. It is almost backward from what is typically delivered by Hollywood.
Freeman, who took on the role of Bilbo, does a wonderful job. It is no small task to take on a role originated by Holm as old Bilbo and make him younger. Add to the fray that this younger portrayal must fit into what fans expect Bilbo to be from the book. No room for errors with one of the biggest holiday movies of the year and the eyes of the world upon him to carry a new LOTR franchise. Freeman did a superb job despite all of the aforementioned pressures and I can definitely see him carrying a new series of films.
This was an overall good film. The high frame rate of 48 frames per second and 3D was a little weird, so be prepared for a different look from the projection. The film is also available in normal 24 fps 3D and 24 fps 2D.
Whichever format fits you best, don’t miss this movie.