Over the last two weeks, I flew down to West Palm Beach to drive my grandparents back up to their old apartment in Brooklyn so they could back up and move whatever was left there that they wanted and then drove them back down and flew back up. The reward I gave myself for all of this was almost quite literally going to see the first installment of "The Hobbit" almost directly after stepping off the plane. I had been waiting for this movie to come out for a very long time. I cannot quite say how long... since they green lit it? Since "The Return of the King" came out? Since I was a kid and read the book? Since I was an even younger kid and saw the Rankin Bass cartoon? Yeah, I've waited a long time for this. So what did I think? I haven't spent as much time smiling through a movie as I have this one since... well, since "The Return of the King," actually.
It's hard to give this movie a proper review at this point because, well, it's not finished. As much as I loved it, the most honest grade I can give is "Incomplete." But I like how the pieces are moving into place, the characters have all been introduced and the best is yet to come.
As with "Lord of the Rings," the casting was inspired. Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins as much as Ian Holm was (and still is). Likewise, Richard Armitage embodied Thorin Oakenshield better than I ever imagined. The rest of the dwarves were great, and I don't need to rave about the returning cast.
The entire sequence between Bilbo Baggins and Gollum was exactly what I wanted it to be. I've read that chapter in the book so many times that I found myself asking the and answering the riddles with the characters. And the scene where Bilbo showed Gollum pity and spared his life. Yes! Exactly! The moment that saves Middle Earth was done justice.
I have seen some negativity surrounding this movie, and I think that comes from people who were expecting another "Lord of the Rings." The Hobbit is certainly lighter in tone, but that's not a bad thing. The movie actually matched the book's tone pretty well, in my opinion. If people go in expecting the same darkness that comes from an apocalyptic war, then it's their own fault for not doing the research. But I do suspect more darkness to come, especially as the story arc about the Necromancer plays out, as it should if you know who he actually is.
Count me in as another one who thought Radagast the Brown was over-the-top. But I didn't dislike him, actually I enjoyed him, I just wish Jackson had toned him down a little. But he is hardly Jar Jar Binks and this movie is not "The Phantom Menace." For starters this movie is really, really, really good. Did I have my fears? Honestly, no. I had faith in this production and so far, that faith has been rewarded. Prequels aren't bad, the "Star Wars" prequels just sucked... of course the originals were mediocre at their best as well; while here we have a very good prequel to great originals. But, when all is said and done, I suspect I'll be watching "The Hobbit" Extended Editions before my "Lord of the Rings" Extended Editions when I re-visit the series on Blu-ray as I know I will.
The pale orc, Azog's survival after the battle of Moria might have been an invention of Peter Jackson's, but I liked him and I already foresee how he will be used as the story progresses. In the book, the orcs arrived at the Battle of Five Armies pretty much out of no where. I suspect Azog's grudge against Thorin will be the reason why the orcs will head to Erebor. Between Smaug, the Necromancer, and Azog, we're going to have a lot of fun villains. And speaking of villains, I loved seeing the Witch-King of Angmar and Saruman again.
It was exactly what I wanted. More light-hearted and whimsical while at the same time building towards the tone and threat that Sauron will pose in the not-too-distant future. I loved it. I will see it again. This may be my favorite movie experience of the year, and in a year that had "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises," "Lincoln," and will have a Quentin Tarantino movie, that's high praise.