Actually, the title to this one is a bit of a lie. Anyone who read the book already knows that The Hobbit is a more light hearted and funny work than LOTR, not that there weren’t some funny moments in LOTR, just that those few moments get completely drowned out by the almost constant dread and sorrow that fills every other part of the story. So to that extent, The Hobbit was a great change of pace for the audience, though I did hear a few complaints from people that The Hobbit was a poor film because it lacked the seriousness of LOTR; those people are idiots.
You can see the change in atmosphere even in the way battles are conducted. The escape from the goblins scene illustrates this perfectly. We don’t have the standard clash of giant armies that we had in LOTR, instead of have a ragtag group of misfits running around, doing whatever they can to make distance between them and the enemy, which includes things like seeing a fat dwarf carrying half a dozen goblins on him. Not to mention the leader of these goblins is a fat, ugly thing with a huge flabby chin that wiggles disgustingly around while he speaks. Watching this scene, you just know it would not have been directed like this if it were part of LOTR, it was so much more light hearted, and it was for the best.
Having said that, casting Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo Baggins is probably the best, most spot on casting that I’ve seen recently, and anyone who’s seen BBC’s Sherlock will know how good the casting was for this. This isn’t to say that Freeman’s previous work in things like The Office (UK), HGTTG (not a good movie, but a great performance from him), and Hot Fuzz weren’t good, because they were great, but that his portrayal of Watson is the closest to what a young Bilbo Baggins is like. Martin perfectly portrays his character, by nicely balancing Bilbo’s desire to be safe, at home where things are orderly, and never bothered, and his desire to go out into the world and have a real adventure for once in his life. Bilbo becomes the reluctant hero, who is in the end more courageous than the others, for the others are fighting to reclaim their home, a partially selfish desire, whereas Bilbo is fighting, as he explains at the end, because he has a home, and they do not.
We also have the return of everyone’s favorite wizard, Gandalf The Grey. Personally, I have to agree with what McKellen said in his interview with Colbert, Gandalf the Gray is a much more entertaining character than Gandalf the White; He drinks, he smokes, he makes jokes, whereas Gandalf the White is just a giant prude. We already knew from LOTR that Sir Ian McKellen is a powerhouse in this role, but we definitely get new sides to Gandalf’s character that we didn’t see in LOTR. We get a Gandalf who is more uncertain of himself, who doesn’t obey authority, who admits his lack of power compared to other wizards, and who’s seen being one of the guys a lot more than he was in LOTR.
Two see why I loved this movie, one really only needs to look at two scenes in particular: the thunder battle and the riddle game scenes. By no means do I want to lessen the greatness of other scenes, I of course love the introduction of the dwarves in the Shire and the gang’s escape from the goblins, but these two scenes really stick out after seeing the movie. The thunder battle is just masterpiece in direction and CGI. The giants looked beautiful and the portrayal of the action was excellent and did not detract from understanding the series of events during the scene. The riddle game scene was pure brilliance. Andy Serkis portrayed Gollum amazingly once again, but Gollum’s interaction with Bilbo is really something to see. Here, you really get to see a wide range of Freeman’s acting ability, giving his character wit, fear, courage, and sympathy. This was a scene that would have proven difficult to any actor, and Freeman pulled it off beautifully.
The one complaint I have with the movie is a lack of editing. If there is one thing that Peter Jackson deserves criticism for it’s his inability to edit his works. How many sweeping, landscape shots do you really need? And how many scenes do you really need of the characters walking where nothing else happens? We get it, they’re traveling, we know they’re traveling because they told us where they’re going. We don’t need a dozen scenes showing us that they’re traveling. Every time one of these “just walking” scenes is shown, I can’t help but think of Randal’s description of LOTR in Clerks 2.
Aside from my complaint about the lack of editing, I loved the movie. I saw it in the HFR format, expecting not to be able to tell the difference, that this was just another gimmick. But I was so very wrong. Definitely go see the movie, and if you can see it in HFR, I highly recommend it. The HFR makes everything look… well better, crisper, it’s hard to describe it except to say that you can definitely tell the difference.