When the trailer for the Hobbit originally came out (you know, the one with all the baritone dwarves) I was as excited as any geek or nerd that has read the books. As the movie's release approached though I began to get a little worried. There was movie nerd controversy over the way the movie was shot, it was being filmed in 3D, and then it was announced that there would be not one, not two, but three whole movies based around a children's novel. I began to suspect and then know that we would be treated to an odd looking film where spears popped out at the screen to wow 3D fans and the story would be bloated and changed from the original form so Hollywood could make more money.
I'm glad I was wrong.
The Hobbit is easily the equal of the Fellowship of the Ring and in parts much better. Sure, it isn't quite the same as the Lord of the Rings movies. You see, The Hobbit has never been as serious as those books, in fact it was written as a children's story. So yes, the fare is a little more light and indeed there is even comedy in here. It's lighter all around actually with much more colorful scenery and beautiful vistas not yet consumed by darkness. The darkness is rising of course, but it has yet to consume Middle Earth and we get to see a land untorn and in a state of peace.
Of course there are sweeping battle scenes and action a plenty in the movie and it's with some of these scenes I find the greatest offense. Often, in order to make our dwarves (and especially Thorin) formidable, pieces of the book are turned into battles that never took place. At first I took issue with this, but then realized that The Hobbit just might not have translated as well without them added. Overall it doesn't take away from the experience, and while Tolkien purists might roll their eyes, they'll enjoy it just as much as a new person being introduced to Middle Earth for the first time.
Other than that certain scenes are pulled directly from the book and will be sure to leave you grinning ear to ear. The festive and rowdy dinner party, songs that were in the book, and the shining star of the movie: the scene where Bilbo meets Golem and finds the ring. Honestly, the whole thing is brilliant and you'll easily forget that Golem is simply CG. As in the movies Andy Serkis is just pure gold here.
He isn't the only actor that does spot on though. Martin Freeman's Bilbo is as close to the picture as you can get (albeit a little skinnier). He plays well of the older Bilbo that is done by Ian Holm and the way he portrays the famous hobbit is nothing short of brilliant. Thorin gets plenty of screen time, they even made him his own nemesis to hound him in the movie, and overall he is going to be the new favorite of many movie goers. Quite simply, he is an utter badass throughout the flick.
The other dwarves don't get as much to shine with only 5 or so dwarves given true personality throughout the film. Of course we have two more films to fix this, and they were established overall very well during the dinner scene. A lot of critics are lambasting the beginning of the movie as slow and boring, but I couldn't disagree more. It was a brilliant set up that didn't seem to drag on at all.
As a last mention the 3D was extremely well done. Honestly, I don't think I've seen 3D utilized this well since Avatar. Instead of things popping out at you all the time it was used to enhance the scenery and bring you one step closer to stepping into Middle Earth. There were scenes in Bilbo's house looking out the windows that were nothing short of awesome in 3D with the added depth.
Overall, The Hobbit is an unmitigated success that may get a few things wrong, but mostly Peter Jackson just nails it once again. Sweeping vistas, exciting battle scenes, great character interaction; it's all here. The only real bad thing about the movie is now I have to wait for the other!
Score: 4 out of 5