With The Desolation of Smaug days away, I thought I would review the first installment of The Hobbit trilogy, after reading several negative reviews.
I will warn of spoilers ahead.
The Hobbit plants the seeds of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy and adds more mythology and characters to Middle Earth, with many differences that still make it stand-alone.
The opening sequence with Erebor and the shining golden mines combined with Howard Shores’ drums and chorus captures your attention immediately.
The viewer feels the essence of Middle Earth with this prologue as well as an understanding that this tale may be about a hobbit, but certainly not about an evil ring.
Smaug’s arrival with fast camera cuts of fiery destruction is quintessential, only showing him for split seconds at abstract angles, which creates mystery and intensity.
It makes the viewer feel like the dragon is pursuing them, never seeing it coming, as the flying monster is seconds from flashing light and incinerating you to ashes.
The sequence with elder Bilbo re-telling his journey all the way to the Lonely Mountain near his 111th birthday was a perfect transition from The Fellowship of the Ring to An Unexpected Journey, sprinkling the familiarity of the films from over a decade ago without over-spicing the flavor. (Like the third bowl of porridge, it’s just right.)
Martin Freeman plays an excellent Bilbo, expressing Mr. Baggins as a person who does not like guests but lacks the wisdom of experience that Ian Holm carries in Fellowship, which Freeman will gain when his journey to the Lonely Mountain is complete.
One could have been nervous getting used to seeing 13 dwarves on the screen, but the comedy and slow pace of their introduction makes it the opposite. We may forget some of the names after the first view, but you know which style each dwarf has based on their rhyming names and if they are always seen in pairs, like Fili and Kili or Oin and Gloin.
Songs are what makes Lord of The Rings so special, it’s Tolkien’s poetry, and The Hobbit delivers many times. Especially with the baritone harmonics of ‘The Misty Mountains,’ which is a bolero of fire as the lyrics re-tell the tale of Smaug the Terrible and remind the viewer of the fiery prologue and the great journey ahead of our heroes.
For die-hard Lord of the Rings fans, The Hobbit is not without its extra loaves of lambas bread, as Peter Jackson re-visits locations like Moria, Rivendale, and Weathertop, which are all featured in Tolkien’s The Hobbit novel.
Especially the scene where Thorin Oakanshield and his fellow dwarf army take back Moria from the Orcs, and the personal rivalry between Thorin and The Pale Orc begins.
I personally cannot remember any heroic character being beheaded in The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, which added a darker essence to The Hobbit that lets the viewers know that this is no cartoon, but a serious display of barbaric war and gruesome carnage.
The foreshadowing of The Pale Orc’s return was great because it informs the viewers of something that Thorin and his company do not know, purposely making us wait for the next match-up, which does take your breath away when it occurs.
The theme when the dwarves sneak out of Rivendale and march onward was perfect. It marks the journey’s beginning, especially with the wide shot of the dwarves and the mountains behind them. (It reminded me of the 11 fellowship members stepping atop the hill after they departed from Rivendale in Fellowship of The Ring, which was cathartic.)
Bringing back themes from LOTR’s trilogy was done with perfection. Saruman’s theme, Galadriel’s theme, Gollum’s theme, Elrond’s theme, and of course the original Hobbit theme that was placed flawlessly whenever it was used, all making the movie even better.
I specifically enjoyed the hobbit theme playing as Gandalf was speaking to Galadriel about why he chose Bilbo Baggins as the fourteenth member of their company.
“Perhaps I’m afraid, and he gives me courage.”
The Goblin King is my only complaint, but the choreography of the dwarves escaping from the tunnels inside the mountain was executed with perfection and it makes me forget my little negative specificities that barely wager on the scales of my movie meter.
Gandalf also uses his staff to knock a piece of the mountain away, creating a rolling rock, which was pretty cool, even if it was only used for less than five seconds.
The scene with Bilbo and Gollum was epic. Watching the blue light from Sting slowly disappear as Gollum is beating the death out of a goblin was horrifying. (If Gollum were beating a person instead of a monster, the film would be rated R instead of PG13).
The Lord of the Rings theme playing when Bilbo discovers the ring of power was mesmerizing. It could have been embellished, but Howard Shore gives you just the right amount to take us back a decade or so to remind us of yet another long epic-journey.
The next phase of The Pale Orc versus Thorin was legendary. The serenade of the Nazgul theme orchestrating Thorin’s charge was powerful and mythical, combined with the surrounding flames it was magical. Calling the scene ‘heroic’ is an understatement.
We also get a nice ‘Eagles theme’ as the giant birds fly our heroes away to safety and soar above the snowy peaks of the Misty Mountains.
The ‘Crowning of the King’ theme from Return of the King playing behind Thorin’s apology to Bilbo combined with the Hobbit theme was glorious and sublime, a perfect ending to a first installment, especially with the wide shot of the Lonely Mountain in the distance, revealing itself as the Eagles wings disappear.
The final scene with Smaug covered in gold and awakening was petrifying. No music. No chorus to tell the audience to be afraid or shocked. Just golden-coins ringing, before a hallowed-growl resonates and annihilates all other sounds.
Then an eye opens and the film fades to black.