Deep in the heart of New Zealand, there was a fantastic director.
As a fan of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels, as well as the three Lord of the Rings films, I was extremely excited to hear that the Hobbit would be adapted into a film. My excitement grew when it was announced that Peter Jackson would once again be directing and even more so when it was going to be shown in not one, not two, but three films.
When I first heard that it would be three films instead of two, I was a little bit hesitant, but then I remembered that Peter Jackson was directing. While he did change and eliminate parts of the novels for the Lord of the Rings, the films were still very well done. This knowledge assuaged my fears regarding the Hobbit being three films: I knew that they would be done right without adding unnecessary elements to pad each film.
I had just completed a four month university course that studied Tolkien’s major works when I walked into the theatre Tuesday evening with my family. Having studied The Hobbit in great detail, I knew that even with Peter Jackson directing, the film would have a high standard/vision to live up to.
However, it did not take a very long time for me to be completely immersed in the film, differences from the novel and all.
The film opened with a prologue of sorts, with Older Bilbo starting to write the story encased in The Hobbit. The viewer is greeted with flashes of the dwarves finding the Arkenstone and the Dwarven King’s greed, along with the destruction of a city and the Dwarven kingdom by the dragon Smaug (though Smaug is never fully seen). This prologue, the scene with Bilbo and Frodo aside, is not directly featured in this fashion in the novel. Instead, it is actually told through the dwarves who visit Bilbo at Bag End. However, I felt that including it as a prologue and actually having it play out visually onscreen was a good decision versus having one or two of the dwarves telling the story without any visual representation.
The dinner scene with the dwarves, Gandalf and Bilbo was well done, including having Thorin arrive slightly later than the others (unlike in the novel), but there were 2 specific parts that truly signaled to me that this was going to be a fantastic movie.
Having seen multiple previews, I knew that they were going to include the Misty Mountain song, but it was actually the inclusion of the song about smashing plates because “that’s what Bilbo Baggins hates” that really made me realize that this film was going to be absolutely amazing. I know that when a novel gets adapted into a screenplay and then a finished movie that many things end up being cut out due to time constraints, and I felt that this rambunctious song by the dwarves was going to be one of them. This song was highlighted during my Tolkien lectures and we had indeed studied each line, but I knew that while it was actually important to the story, the Misty Mountain song most certainly eclipsed it, so I was not expecting the dwarves to start throwing plates around and singing that song.
I would like to mention the Misty Mountain song for one moment. In the novel, this song is what makes Bilbo change his mind and decide to go on the adventure with Gandalf and the dwarves, so it was a comfort to see that it seemed to be the same case in the film. Beyond that, I actually got chills while listening to the music and had I been in Bilbo’s position…well, I might have joined the dwarves myself.
The pale orc that is mentioned throughout the film was actually killed before the events of the novel took place, and therefore was never chasing Thorin and company. However, the addition of this orc surviving and holding a grudge against Thorin adds a sense of urgency to the dwarves’ quest and helps to prevent the film from dragging on and on.
The other element that I would like to highlight are the scenes with Radagast the Brown. The actor who portrays him, Sylvester McCoy (who, incidentally, portrayed the seventh incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who), does a brilliant job. While he does not have a large role in the novel itself, I get the feeling that he will have a significant role in the remaining two films, and with the fantastic job he did in this one, I cannot wait to see what he presents us with next!
Another scene that is slightly altered from the same event in the novel, but actually improves the film by quite a bit, is when the dwarves and Bilbo are in the midst of the fight between two stone giants. In the novel, the stone giants are a little ways away from the company rather than they way it appears in the film with the company actually climbing on one of the two stone giants, having mistaken it for a part of the mountain. Peter Jackson’s choice to have the company in severe danger during this part of the film really works. It definitely adds that sense of urgency and lets the audience truly fear for the company’s fate.
Putting the company in danger multiple times throughout the films highlights the urgency of the quest and shows the determination of each member in a way that wouldn’t have been possible had the film stuck exactly to the same events in the novel. The novel’s advantage is that it can rely on narration much more than the film can, which instead has to put most of its “weight”, so to speak, on the dialogue and visuals.
One of my favourite parts of the Lord of the Rings films is Gollum, and nothing has changed for The Hobbit. The cave scene, particularly the Riddle game, is a prime exhibit of stunning acting on the part of Andy Serkis, as well as Martin Freeman. For those who may not be aware, Andy Serkis does not just voice the character of Gollum. The character of Gollum is produced through motion capture and CGI, which basically means that Andy Serkis wears a special body suit during scenes featuring Gollum and moves in the same way that Gollum does. The body suit allows the producers to then apply CGI and create the finished product.
Andy Serkis is the perfect Gollum, and this once again becomes clear during the cave scene in the Hobbit. His sing song voice after he captures a goblin is both funny and creepy, and his transitions between Gollum and Smeagol are absolutely perfect and truly do feel slightly schizophrenic. Gollum is able to elicit laughs from the audience: “Shut Up” “I didn’t say anything” “Wasn’t talking to you”, as well as being sufficiently menacing when he sneaks up on Bilbo. This is truly a testament to Andy’s acting ability, as is the portrayal of Gollum having a temper tantrum when he loses the game and then the dramatic panic when he realizes that his precious is missing.
The ending of the film is in a perfect spot, as is the inclusion of Smaug in the final moment. Before this it was unclear to the dwarves as to whether or not Smaug was still alive as he had not been seen for a number of years, but the movement of the massive pile of gold to reveal a large, formidable looking eye, lets the audience know that this is not the case.
The final thing that I would like to mention is the scenery throughout the film. New Zealand is the perfect location for Middle Earth, and I cannot wait to see how it exhibits Mirkwood in the next film. The beautiful locale shown throughout this film makes me want to jump on a plane and fly there to see it for myself.
The Hobbit is indeed a long film, and as such caters to fans of Tolkien and Middle Earth. Having studied the novel in depth, I have found that I appreciate the significance of certain events and things in the film that I would not have appreciated before. I walked away both satisfied and impatient to see the next film in what has started out to be an amazing film trilogy. Not only that, this film was much better than I was expecting. Truly and unexpected masterpiece by Peter Jackson.