The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is delightful, precious! Yesss it is too long—there’s a 20-minute history of the dwarves of Erebor, and that’s even before we hear “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” There are many flashbacks. There are musical numbers. There is plenty of eating. There is more facial hair than is present in the entire Rings trilogy.
With The Lord of the Rings the problem was how to compress so much into ten hours of movies, so the songs were dropped and entire scenes and characters removed (We can live without barrow wights). The problem here is how to stretch a fairly short children’s book into three movies, so every sequence is padded with information from Tolkien’s many chronicles, histories and appendices. For instance when Thorin Oakenshield is introduced, we get a flashback battle scene explaining where he got his name. Too much information—not a problem for Tolkien fans.
And yet The Hobbit has not a whiff of the cynicism and marketing tie-in prostitution that corroded the soul of that other fantasy series we once loved. It helps that Peter Jackson and his veteran LOTR team could turn to Professor Tolkien’s vast body of work for everything they needed.
Each scene is crafted with so much care, detail and Tolkien geek love, we forgive its excesses. Martin Freeman is brilliant as Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellen renders it impossible to imagine anyone else as Gandalf, and Richard Armitage’s Thorin may be the second dwarf sex symbol of our time (Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister is the first, and he was written by a Tolkien devotee). Upon hearing Christopher Lee’s unmistakable voice we cried, “He’s alive! He’s aliiiive!” Once again Andy Serkis makes us wonder why we feel bad for that malign creature Gollum.
The Hobbit is long, but it is not slow: there is so much to take in, you may not notice the hours go by. (Middle Earth is so gorgeous we want to book passage to New Zealand.) The rollicking dwarf comedy may remind you of Time Bandits, the woodland scenes of Legend (No!), but the battle scenes are pure Peter Jackson. There’s no one we’d rather go on a dangerous adventure with.
Note: We watched The Hobbit in 2D because we hate wearing 3D glasses over our own spectacles. Much has been written about the movie being shot at 48 frames per second. All we can say is: It’s clear.
We lovesss you, Peter Jackson. The only way we could love you more is if you cast the New Zealand All Blacksses as human warriors in the final battle. Ooh there’s an idea.