Saw this with the family last week. The kiddo has been a fan of Lord of the Rings for a while (though we usually wouldn’t let her watch the properly scary bits) in spite of only being 5. Recently we started reading books to her before bed, a chapter a night. This started with the first Harry Potter novel, but we also got a copy of The Hobbit and I’ve been reading that to her. By coincidence we’d almost covered the first chunk of the novel as is covered by the movie, so she got to see the stuff she’s been hearing about, and more besides.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. It looks exactly as stunning as you’d expect (we chose not to do the 3d bit so I can’t speak to that). The world is every bit as large, wild, and fascinating as in LOTR. The audio and the music are good too, not that that really needs to be said anymore. The acting is good… more on that in a bit. Right. Onwards.
First thing to point out is that although it’s 2 hours and 46 minutes long, our 5 year old had relatively little difficulty sitting through it. It’s also nicely paced. Although I knew by point X a couple of hours had passed, it hadn’t left me tired of watching the film at all.
The acting is just as incredible as you’d expect given the names attached to it. Nobody disappoints in any way. With that said though, the original Hobbit story is meant to be a great deal more childish than LOTR was, and the acting and story reflects that here. It’s actually perfectly appropriate and generally not distracting. The amount of childish slapstick is just right, so that you don’t get annoyed by it and it doesn’t seem out of place.
And on that note the story is quite good, for the most part. The thing is, since they want to stretch it to multiple films, they need to flesh it out a lot. A LOT, given that the Hobbit novel was shorter than any of the three LOTR books. And you can tell a lot got padded if you’ve ever read it. Most of this comes in the form of providing backstory to what’s going on that will end up in LOTR. When Tolkein originally wrote the book he added a couple of characters in passing that weren’t fleshed out at all (Radagast and The Necromancer in particular). He then did add at least a small amount of detail in his other stories and in LOTR itself: Radagast had a whole one scene in the latter novels, and the Necromancer was later decided to be LOTR villain Sauron gathering his strength. They’ve taken that info and wedged the two together in the movie. It actually works rather well, and the inclusion of such a serious big bad enemy is toned down by the humorous portrayal of Radagast by Sylvester McCoy.
And the dwarves, oh man the dwarves. They all delight from the first moment. Although not all of them have much dialogue each is brought across as a distinct character. The initial interactions between Bilbo, Balin, and Dwalin were my personal favorite but they’re wonderful throughout.
But all of that melds together well into the less-serious story, and the more serious bits to come have been foreshadowed nicely. I don’t know that this really needed to be split into three films… two would surely have been sufficient… but regardless it’s a lot of fun to watch.