To complete their quest to The Lonely Mountain, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) Thorin (Richard Armitage) and company must pick their way through a deceiving forest, and escape the grasp of Lake-town’s corrupt Master (Stephen Fry). Then there’s the small matter of the fire breathing dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), and the navigation of a river on the much desired nautical vehicles of barrels. The film was based on the book by J.R.R Tolkien and is directed by Peter Jackson.
The first scene begins in Bree with a cameo from director Jackson, immediately witnessing a faster paced experience than the first film. The spider scene leaves the audience wanting more of Bilbo’s development such as his heroism. His sword naming was rushed, the film focusing more on the power of the Ring, playing a bigger role than it did in the book. It is weird that the Ring is taking hold of Bilbo this early on after acquiring it, but provides a smart link to the Lord of the Rings, making the story to be less of a film of its own and more of a prequel to the epic adventure ahead.
The action sequences are visually stunning receiving BAFTA, Oscar & Golden Globe nominations for SFX, Costume Design & Hair Make Up. The scene in Mirkwood was rushed, they were lost in there for quite a long time in the book and it seemed like no time at all in the film. Jackson wanted to include as much action as possible; skipping out significant events that Middle Earth enthusiasts wanted see from the novel like where Bombur (Stephen Hunter) falls asleep in the river but apparently action is more important than a coherent storyline. I hope this will be present in the extended edition. Jackson has lost the ying & yang between action and non-action sequences that he portrayed in the Return of the King. The musical score is beautiful. Howard Shore has provides a mix of known and not so known scores, with added themes to portray different characters like Tauriel (Evangeline Lily) and Bard (Luke Evans). It was good to hear the occasional ‘Shire’ theme too.
The Visual Effects of the movie are outstanding with improved motion capture on the characters such as Azog The Defiler (Manu Bennett) and improved CGI on the great landscapes of New Zealand. But I believe that this film fails horrendously with Legolas (Orlando Bloom) due to the fact that in the Lord of the Rings films he had many personality traits which included: kindness, loyalty and cunning but in the Hobbit he is a two dimensional character and really quite boring if I am honest. Maybe this is because he is still young and hasn’t really lived outside the Woodland Realm.
Tauriel (Evangeline Lily) is a fantastic addition to the cast, being a much needed character because the Middle Earth is male dominated and is lacking leading female roles. but I would have wanted a bit more development into the character apart from being a ‘badass elf. The elves of Mirkwood such as Thranduil (Lee Pace) are not like other elves, such as Elrond of Rivendell being described as “being less wise, but more dangerous”; this description does not mean they are not less graceful. The gracefulness of the elves has been lost, with the acting of Evangeline Lily lacking the gracefulness of Liv Tyler’s role as an elf in the Lord Of The Rings.
Laketown is introduced and the Mis-En-Scene is brilliant. I didn’t like that Bard seemed more like a Bard The Smuggler rather than Bard The Bowman. His character wasn’t developed enough. Smaug is the best character in the movie and is up there with Gollum as the one of the best motion capture characters in a live action movie. Voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch; Smaug is arrogant, confident and beautiful. The Bilbo/Smaug confrontation is the highlight of the film and the scale of Erebor’s gold filled halls is breath-taking. It is a sight to behold; a true spectacle of modern cinema.
The amount of effort put into tiny details has to be commended, being things such as extensive make up and the detail of the weapons, this being all done well and attracts you into the feeling and sentiment of Middle Earth. Gandalf’s piece is done with utter magnificence, and provides another link to Lord of the Rings with the use of magic . The scenes that were used from the book are handled with care and grace, from Bilbo’s ascent above the trees of Mirkwood, to Smaug’s lair.
Now to compare the movie with the novel. The tone of the story completely separates itself from the novel,the book being soft and elegant but here, Jackson has turned it into a Hollywood action adventure that really does not fit in with the original tone of the book. Kili (Aiden Turner) says “Aren’t you going to search me? I could have anything down my trousers,” is something that is a disgrace to the book. The whole love triangle disaster could have been so easily replaced with the river crossing, but on the other hand this film is a fantastic viewing, and leaves you in awe. For Middle Earth movie nerds this is a no brainer, having perfect visuals for the most part, and great action sequences. For the diehard Tolkien fans like me, you may be disappointed by some of the chosen additions. I thought some were done well, and others came below par but the scenes that were in the book that were chosen to translate onto the screen are amazing. May I add that I liked Jackson’s nod to the ‘Unfinished Tales’ in the first scene between Thorin and Gandalf, a flashback to how ‘The Quest Of Thorin Oakenshield’ came to be. That being said, with all the action and whatnot, Jackson has kept the overall feel of magic and adventure that Lord Of The Rings had. It still has the feel of Middle Earth.
Verdict: There were many great uses of SFX and cinematography. The editing in the action sequences was fast, furious and aggressive at 48FPS. I thought the acting was brilliant. The Academy and The BAFTA are biased towards Science Fiction & Fantasy movies so no major award nominations will be given to the Hobbit. I think the depiction of Bilbo Baggins and Thorin Oakenshield by Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage was underrated and they should have been in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories. All in all, Middle Earth has its sting back.