By Chris Robinson on 1/04/2013
With his Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson used his talents for filmmaking wizardry and engrossing storytelling to expertly bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novels to life. The director’s most recent output, The Hobbit, is the first in a three-part adaptation of Tolkien’s landmark children’s novel of the same name, which three films are, together, intended to act as a prequel to the aforementioned LotR films. The relative wisdom of filming prequels post-sequel, Star Wars-style, can certainly be debated. But the inescapable fact of this very long film is that it feels less like fresh material and more like rehash.
Synopsis – A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on an “unexpected journey” to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim a their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug. Trailer
Rating/Runtime: PG-13/169 min.
Dingo Dictum: B
The story centers on a young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), cozily ensconced in his hobbit home. After being inexplicably approached by mysterious wizard Gandalf the Grey, he is drafted into an “adventure” with thirteen dwarves who are setting out to accomplish the impossible feat of reclaiming the ancient underground kingdom of Erebor from Smaug, a gold-loving dragon. Along their way, the hairy, uncouth company must intermittently battle with/flee from trolls, goblins, and orcs, hold council with the elven inhabitants of Rivendell and their ruler/lady of mystery Galadriel, and Bilbo himself must personally A) confront the gray fish-lover Gollum and his strange ring, and B) prove his mettle generally. Perilous encounters, pell-mell escapes, and improbable rescues abound, accompanied by the background music of clanging swords and dwarvish oaths. All shot, of course, against the gorgeous backdrop of the New Zealand wild.
If it sounds like Lord of the Rings all over again, it’s because that’s exactly what it is. No, there’s no Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler (sorry teen boys) or Orlando Bloom (sorry teen girls). But Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, and Andy Serkis are all back to reprise their roles, and even Elijah Wood makes a token appearance as Frodo. There are some cool new characters, such as the studly Thorin Oakenshield. But too much of this song is starting to feel overplayed, and the constant cycle of fighting and fleeing, as the main characters must confront a seemingly endless list of freaky-looking creatures, isn’t enough to hide the lack of interesting character development, or the fact that it all has the feel of a story stretched too thin.
Martin Freeman is a perfect fit for the role of Bilbo (Peter Jackson wanted him so badly he reworked his entire shooting schedule to accommodate him) and the all-British cast (excepting Wood) acquit themselves quite capably. The aforementioned New Zealand landscape is, as always, breathtaking, and Jackson does an especially good job of incorporating it into the plot of the film. The source material is timeless and the music nearly as good, and Jackson hasn’t yet lost his touch for telling a story that pulls you in.
But by the end of the film (a cliffhanger blatantly setting up the next installment in the series), you’ll be forgiven for feeling that this story has become a bit, well, stale. Δ