I’ll start off by saying that I didn’t think The Hobbit should have been split into 3, and in some ways I still don’t. But Part One is such an unexpectedly fabulous journey, marred only by an overabundance of CGI orcs and battles with same. I should have trusted Peter and Fran! Even though we are only at the point of the travelers’ rescue by the Eagles (exactly on page 100 in my copy of the book), none of what went before seems padded.
The best thing by far is Martin Freeman, Bilbo to the absolute life. I can’t imagine any actor doing it better, from having his cozy little hobbit-hole invaded by loud and rumbustious dwarves, to being used as a hankie by a troll and riddling for his life with Gollum. He is brilliant. He IS Bilbo. And he made me realize that of course Arthur Dent is a hobbit.
More brilliant things: tying it in to LotR with Old Bilbo and Frodo; Sylvester McCoy’s bravura Radagast, with his insane sled drawn by turbo-charged rabbits; and all of the dwarves, each one a distinct character (a feeling I never got in the book). Things that are welcome back and don’t disappoint: Gollum, Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, New Zealand as Middle-Earth.
Did I mention that there is way too much Orc CGI? Well, remember the grosser Orc-y bits in LotR? There’s more like that. Lots more. The Great Goblin is truly yucky, too much so perhaps, as are the trolls. But that is my only gripe. It looks gorgeous, as did LotR. We revisit homely Hobbiton and fabulous Rivendell. There are scary Wargs and spiders, and bits of Smaug that hint of something absolutely immense, though nothing with quite the menace of the Nazgûl. Howard Shore’s music references LotR in all the right places.
It could have been funnier. There aren’t any real laughs. There was more lightness in LotR, despite the trilogy being heavier than The Hobbit, which is, after all, a children’s book. And, of course, there’s no Aragorn. But I was delighted to return to Middle-Earth for nigh-on three hours, and though I have to wait for the next two instalments, I’m looking forward to them as eagerly as I did parts 2 and 3 of LotR.