The Hobbit: An Unexpected Review

Waiting in line outside the convention center before the sun came up.

Waiting in line outside the convention center before the sun came up.

It all began with waking up at 4 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I was in San Diego for Comic Con with my friend James and we were set on seeing a number of movie panels that day, including “The Hobbit.” We crawled our way out of bed and walked our daily mile to the convention center. After rolling under a (parked) train and sleeping on the sidewalk (next to real people with nowhere to sleep) we made it into the famous Hall H, nearly five hours after the start of our long journey.

After sitting through the panels to what will surely be next summer’s biggest films, we got to see the man-hobbit himself, Peter Jackson, along with the actual hobbit, Martin Freeman; the past hobbit, Elijah Wood; the grey wizard, Ian McKellen; the dwarf king, Richard Armitage; and last but certainly not least, his precious himself, Andy Serkis. The Q&A filled panel lasted an hour and even included 12 minutes of never-before-seen footage that we, the select few willing to wait in line for it, got to see.

So – needless to say after all of that, but I will anyway – I was excited to see “The Hobbit.” I was even more excited when I got free passes to see the film two days early through Gofobo.com, a free site that gives you movie screening passes.

This is probably the point when I should declare that I have never ready any of Tolkien’s epics, but I loved the “Lord Of The Ring” film trilogy and have waited for the prequel since the last scene of “Return Of The King.” Now, back to the review.

Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins is much like his Arthur Dent from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Universe.” He lives a boring life, is a bit clumsy and is brought along on a great unexpected adventure by a friend, during which he learns that there’s much more to life then spending your nights at home, alone. That being said, Freeman was born for this role and does it justice. Go watch him in “Sherlock” if you haven’t yet – he plays a brilliant John Watson.

There’s not much to say about the Dwarves. There are a lot of them, led by their king, Thorin, played by Richard Armitage. Armitage is your standard stubborn hero, standing up for his men and putting his life on the line for his family’s legacy. And he does a good job at it.

But the real scene stealer of this film is Andy Serkis, with his brilliant portrayal as Gollum, who loses his precious golden ring that we’ve all come to know so well from the LOTR trilogy. There’s a long scene with a great payoff that involves Bilbo and Gollum playing a game a riddles. If Bilbo wins, he gets a way out of the caves that he fell into during a Goblin fight; if Gollum wins, he gets to eat Bilbo. Seems fair enough.

While each of Tolkien’s previous stories have been told through a single movie, Director Peter Jackson has decided to drag this one out into three, and it’s very apparent. While the first act to “Fellowship” felt long, the first act to “The Hobbit” feels painfully long. It’s so long that there isn’t much of a distinguishable second act. It sort of goes from a strange tale of the start of the journey into a twisted tale of other characters that don’t matter nearly as much, back to the gang of Dwarves, then to side adventures that don’t make as much sense, and then finally the third act begins. And it’s a brilliant one.

The downside to the film picking up pace and becoming great is that it only lasts for about 1/3 of the film and then it’s over, leaving us waiting until 2013 for the second installment “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

Coming in at 169 minutes, “The Hobbit” is a long one with a lot more talking than is necessary, but it’s a good start to a journey through Middle Earth that will last for the next two years – assuming the world doesn’t end on December 21st.