Travel into the world of fantasy in the first installation of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, the prequel to Lord of the Rings. In this introductory chapter, hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman , from the BBC TV series Sherlock) is recruited by wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) to join the band of dwarfs on a quest to reclaim Erebor, the Dwarf Kingdom, from the giant dragon Smaug. Led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage, of BBC’s Robin Hood and MI-5), the group encounters numerous creatures and adventures along their journey.
A few familiar faces from Lord of the Rings include Gandalf, Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman (Sir Christopher Lee), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Gollum (Andy Serkis). There are cameo appearances by old Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Frodo (Elijah Wood). The old cast makes the transition into the prequel easier and heartfelt. The Hobbit plays out what it essentially is – a children’s story. The characters of the dwarfs make it more lighthearted, providing some cute and comical relief on some scenes.
As interesting as the dwarfs are, it is hard to distinguish or remember all thirteen of their names, unlike Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs. There are the three handsome ones that stand out: Thorin, the King of the Dwarfs, and the brothers, Kili (Aidan Turner, from Being Human) and Fili (Dean O’Gorman, who appeared in an episode of Moonlight in 2007). Thorin alone stands powerful and takes the film away from becoming a mere Disney romp.
The Hobbit is the first film made with the rate of 48 frames per second, twice as much as the standard 24 frames per second filmmakers have used for decades. Whether or not this is preferable, it remains subjective to the viewer. In 3D, the increase in rate gives the film clearer, smoother lines, albeit almost CGI animated. For the far away shots of scenery such as those of Rivendell, the land of the Elves, it gives it an ethereal quality. For regular daylight scenes however, it appears like a soap opera and no longer a movie with that grainy quality. The saving grace is that the darker scenes like that on the stone mountain and the Gollum segment in the underground cavern come out exceedingly crisp and dramatic, giving them an added dimension.
The film is not at all like the Lord of the Rings in its telling of the story, its pace, and in its visual technology. Almost 2 hours and 45 minutes long, it’s fast paced with lots of adventures for these dwarfs plus a hobbit and wizard. There are no extensive and melodramatic Sam and Frodo type scenes. Among the creatures they encounter are Orcs, Goblins, stone men, and the beautiful Elves. The most fascinating creature is Gollum; he is 100% creepier and semi-humanlike with the high film rate speed picking up minute details in his facial and body expressions. The only thing missing from this film was Legolas and the Bard, who will be making appearances in the upcoming chapters.