In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
When it comes to The Hobbit, Peter Jackson may have been wrong about a lot of things (shooting at 48 frames per second, the 3D visuals, choosing to pad out J.R.R. Tolkien’s single book children’s story into a violent, three movie trilogy), but his decision to rework the film’s entire shooting schedule in order to accommodate having Martin Freeman (Tim from the original BBC version of The Office) cast in the role of Bilbo Baggins simply cannot be questioned. Not only is Freeman an accomplished actor in his own right, but he completely owns the part of Bilbo. This beloved character simply could not have been portrayed better by anyone else. There are however, a few minor discrepancies between the novel version of Bilbo and his film counterpart that are worth pointing out.
For instance, isn’t the ring supposed to stop Bilbo from aging? Shouldn’t he look the same at 111 as he did at 51? In hindsight, casting Ian Holm in the Bilbo role for The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a jarring misstep, especially now, when the two versions of Bilbo are shown nearly side by side. Also, where the heck is Bilbo’s green cloak? Seriously wardrobe, C’MON, get your shit together. The cloak is too iconic an item to leave out.
Okay, I’m through ranting, at least about Bilbo.
Yes, there are other changes. Yes, there is lots of additional material added. The end justifies the means though. At the start of the movie it feels as though the viewer is stuck in Bilbo’s house (Bag End) for all eternity. Thirteen dwarves have to arrive after all. Then, they have to eat. Then, Bilbo has to pout and refuse to go with them on their great adventure to rescue their homeland from the dragon.
Wait, what? Didn’t they need a burglar simply to steal treasure in the novel? I don’t remember them ever having such lofty aspirations in the original text.
Anyway, once the adventure begins, the action continues at a steady pace until the film reaches its conclusion. My biggest gripe about the Lord of the Rings trilogy was the endless walking with nothing happening. Here at least there was action, even if it had to be fabricated by the screenwriters. They took some liberties, but what folks should understand is that they also drew heavily from the appendices of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy of novels for inspiration. It’s not word for word Tolkien, but in the hands of a lesser director this could have been a complete disaster.
Does the movie feel incomplete? Yes. There’s nothing worse than watching something for three hours and then realizing that the journey is only a third complete. Pile on top of that the fact that you’ve got to wait another two years to get to the real ending and the whole things feels damn depressing.
Still, seeing Tolkien’s world once again brought to life, specifically this story, the best of everything he ever wrote, is truly something special. It’s hard to find too much fault with any of the changes, because obviously Peter Jackson is just as big a fan boy as the rest of his target audience when it comes to this material.
Should you wait until you can see all three back-to-back-to-back? If you could actually wait that long then you’re not a true fan and you probably shouldn’t bother seeing any of them at all. At most, you should try to hold out until mid-year, when the promised extended edition arrives on DVD and Blu-ray with an additional half-hour tacked on.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Directed by Peter Jackson
Makeup and Hairstyling (Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane)
Production Design (Dan Hennah (Production Design); Ra Vincent and Simon Bright (Set Decoration))
Visual Effects (Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White)
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