After years of development hell, I wondered if we’d ever see a Hobbit film. Well not really, I’m sure there was enough box office potential to make sure it happened, I just didn’t expect there to be THREE films. Still, as long as they are good, three good films are better than one, I don’t know what people are complaining about.
I’ve not read “The Hobbit” for a long while, which I think helped me not get distracted by what was in the film and what wasn’t. I suspect there were quite a few bits added on, but the important thing was that they didn’t FEEL tacked on.
Sure, there were a lot of fights, and a lot of running or trudging around glorious New Zealand backdrops. But you can’t really criticise a fantasy quest movie for this. You wouldn’t walk go into a supermarket and complain about how there’s too much food, would you? (actually people DO that, unsurprisingly).
While the old fellowship of the ring had enough distinction between characters to be easily memorable, the dwarf clan was perhaps a little difficult to keep up with, but as an ensemble it worked well. Martin Freeman as Bilbo wasn’t nearly as annoying as I feared, though he doesn’t have much range does he? Uptight Brit seems to be his entire CV, but it didn’t get in the way here. Ian McKellen’s Gandalf was reliably great, and gave more depth to the character than he was able to in the Rings trilogy. How many special moves does he have though?!
Supporting cast were pretty solid too, Richard Armitage had his usual scowling gravitas, Cate Blanchett her usual devastating grace. Ex-Doctor Who Sylvester McCoy was a welcome surprise as wizard Radagast, Christopher Lee too as brow-furrowed Saruman, and even sexy older Jedward brother Lee Pace as some elf or other. Oh and I just twigged that it was lush Aiden Turner as one of the dwarves, surely wasted in a non-elf role, especially with the little one off Flight of the Conchords as an elf receptionist (love him). Quite a huge roster of recognisable faces really, and I haven’t even listed them all (Dame Edna as the testicle-faced Goblin king!)
The plot didn’t feel as thin as I expected, and the weighty 2hr 45 runtime passed relatively easily. Pacing was good, with yet another perilous encounter – this time with goblins – being split by the big plot turn as Bilbo meets Gollum, looking more like Andy Serkis every day (maybe the other way around). That was played wonderfully, and displayed just how great the strange schizophrenic character can be. Have they played that card for the whole trilogy though? I don’t recall him later on but my memory is hazy. Goodness knows I’d be amazed if they don’t find some excuse to include him in later installments.
I haven’t mentioned that controversial HFR (High Frame Rate) that everyone seems to have an opinion on. But down to some unclear wording on the cinema listings, I’m not sure if I saw an HFR showing at all! It has HFR 3D and normal 3D, but I went for one that says neither, so presumably I didn’t have one. Either way, it looked perfectly fine to me, other than some distracting strobing in the picture that I could only tell from reflected light off the walls and floor. Maybe the projector was just on the fritz.
As I’ve now got an unlimited card (a monthly subscription allowing unlimited cinema trips), I paid a small fee to use the D-Box seats, only the second time (the other time being The Avengers). It seemed a bit unnecessary and now I’m on a regular chair I feel a little drifty. Maybe I’ll just save that for big action movies (or not at all).
So yes, all in all it was a perfect serviceable fantasy movie, and didn’t have the feeling of unfinished business that franchises often do, even if the final conflict was a bit forced for the sake of a final act. It even literally had a cliffhanger, a preposterously implausible one too! It makes me want to read the book again though to see what the original plot was, but maybe that can wait until the end of 2014.