Review: The Hobbit

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Just got back from seeing the Hobbit.

Warning, there be spoilers ahead.

The initial moments of the movie will be unfamiliar to readers of the book. The prologue takes place just prior to the events in the Fellowship of the Rings with Bilbo and Frodo preparing for Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party. Events after that proceed in a manner of Bilbo reminiscing and presumably writing his memoirs in the book he finishes at the beginning of the Fellowship.

The true story of the Hobbit begins with the meeting of Gandalf and Bilbo, where Gandalf makes the mark upon Bilbo’s door. The introduction of the dwarfs begins with Dwalin and Balin, and continues through the company. A number of dwarfs are just mentioned by name (and seen on-screen), but have little influence or impact. The major dwarfs in the movie are Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Thorin, and Bombur (for comedic effect). The other dwarfs sort of fade into the background and make occasional comments.

There are some additions to the Hobbit proper from the appendices and other works such as Unfinished Tales and the Silmarillion. The story of Thrain’s abortive attempt to retake Moria from Mazog and his orcs is shown, and somehow Mazog gets a prominent spot as a major villain in the movie (though he is not mentioned in the book story at all).

One thing that struck me right away was in the beginning at Bag End, the dwarfs are talking about who is going to aid them. Dwalin asks about Dain. This struck me because he mispronounced the name. He pronounced it as “Dane” rather than the proper “Dyne”. A minor quibble, but one that will most likely jar any Tolkien enthusiast.

The movie proceeds from the Shire into the Lone Lands (completely skipping Bree-land). The three trolls; Bert, Tom, and William were shown capturing the dwarfs and the Bilbo. This properly takes place in the Trollshaws, but no mention of the locale is given. There is the quibbling of the trolls over how to best prepare the dwarfs and Bilbo steps up to take the initiative to prolong the encounter until morning.

Once the dwarfs are freed from the trolls, they do find the troll cave and find the swords Orcrist, Glamdring and Sting, though Sting is not named at this point. After they bury the troll treasure, they encounter some wargs and goblins or orcs. This encounter was not in the book that I recall, nor was their encounter with Radagast the Brown. Radagast is portrayed as an addled old man with a disturbing amount of bird droppings running down the side of his face. He runs around Middle Earth on a sled pulled by a team of rabbits. That was a serious wtf? moment for me. Barring that, he gives more background to the events leading up to the Trilogy with the evidence of the Necromancer being in the ruined fortress of Dol Guldur.

After the Company reaches Rivendell, Elrond and Gandalf have a conference with Lady Galadriel and Saruman the White. Given the foreknowledge of Saruman’s actions later, his dialog is suitably ominous and a tinge on the dark side. Galadriel and Gandalf are able converse telepathically, though this is surmised to be because of them both being bearers of Rings; Galadriel with Nenya and Gandalf with Vilya. The scene in Rivendell ends with Galadriel telling Gandalf she will come when he calls for her, and the dwarfs sneaking out of Rivendell.

On to the Misty Mountains. The Company travels through a storm and a brawl of giant rock creatures referred to as “storm giants”. This leads them into the cave, or the front porch of the Goblin Town. The goblins are very well done and crawling all over the place as they did in the Great Hall of Moria. The Goblin King is a very large and corpulent goblin, larger than most orcs it seems. The dawrfs are captured and Bilbo sneaks away, falling into a crevasse with a goblin. He comes to as Gollum is dragging the goblin off for some snacking.

Gollum discovers Bilbo and the riddle contest ensues, of course ending with “What have I got in my pockets?” Gollum fails to answer the question and chases Bilbo, who accidentally puts on the ring in a fashion similar to Frodo in the Prancing Pony years later. Gollum inadvertently leads Bilbo to the exit and he makes his escape following the dwarfs and Gandalf out of the caves.

The Company feels safe for mere moments before Mazog and the warg pack show up and chase them into the trees. This scene is similar to the scene in the book, with the addition of the orcs and goblins. Thorin and Mazog face each other down and Thorin gets his dwarf ass thoroughly kicked. He is unconscious and about to be beheaded when Bilbo intervenes and saves him. Most of the dwarfs charge into battle and fight the orcs and wargs off until the arrival of the Eagles. The Eagles bear the dwarfs, Gandalf and Bilbo away to a peak. They see Erebor in the distance across the expanse of the Greenwood (Mirkwood), and Thorin, who has seen Bilbo as nothing more than a burden and nuisance comes to the realization that Bilbo is a valued member of their Company.

The movie ends with Erebor in the distance and the Company looking at it.

I saw the movie in 3D. The 3D effects were well down and understated, limited to the most part bringing the foreground characters into the actual foreground. A couple of “out of the screen” type moments were in the movie, notably with the butterfly Gandalf uses to summon the Eagles flying out.

There was a couple of continuity errors. When the Eagle picked up Thorin, his sword was out of his reach, and the Eagle did not seem to grab it. However, when Thorin was deposited onto the peak, the Eagle had his sword in his claws as well.

Overall, I’d give this movie a 4.5 out of 5.