Shall we step back in the Middle-Earth?

Oh yes, I think we shall.

General Information

Directed by Peter Jackson

 Full Cast and Crew

 

The Premise

Bilbo Baggins is swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever … Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities.

High Points

  • The Dwarves rock. God save me from the elves and give me more dwarves. They are funny, dynamic, and kick-ass in turns.
  • Gandalf explaining to Galadriel why Bilbo is on the quest. Maybe my emotions were raw from the events in Connecticut  but his words hit home, hard.
  • Gollum is scary in his life-like animation. The detail in the face and the eyes (down to individual veins in the bloodshot whites) is startling. Then add in the masterful performance by Serkis and it’s art.

Low Points

There are pacing problems, as many people feared, but they aren’t film killing moments (see Star Trek: The Motion Picture for the gold standard on bad pacing). The film has been padded in places. Sometimes it works, other times, not as much. To point to a specific problem, it would be (as others have mentioned) Radaghast the Brown. Most of his scenes are pretty obviously padding to make the film longer, but at no point do they come close (again, as others have mentioned) to Jar Jar Binksian in annoyance.

Scores

Originality: It’s an adaptation of a old, well-read book. And it’s not the first attempt at a film version. It is, however, the best by far. 3/6

Story: Had I known I was going to be doing the review, I would have reread the book. As it is, nothing jumps out as “not belonging.” Again, there are some additions (from supplimental material) that don’t really add anything. There is a lot more mention and dwelling on “the dark power rising,” though it gives a bit more of a rationale for why Gandalf’s along for the ride. 4/6

Effects: WETA does another magnificent job with both frenetic action (escaping from the orcs under the mountain) to the subtle (Gollum). 6/6

Emotional Response: There was this nagging thought in my mind through most of the first hour. Why am I not excited about this? I remember being positively giddy for Fellowship of the Rings, but not so here. Somewhere around Rivendell it hit me. We’ve been here before, we know this place. It’s not excitement, it’s the warmth of remembrance that suffuses much of the film (at least for me). This is a place we know and love and we want to be here. We had a great time the last time we were here and expect more of the same. And we get it. 6/6

Production: Peter Jackson + WETA + Tolkien. What do you expect? Gorgeous detail in the costumes, make-up, and sets. 6/6

Acting: The dwarves are great from top to bottom. The returning cast is clearly enjoying themselves, with nods to McKellen and Serkis in particular. But it’s Martin Freeman that steals the show. He owns the role and infuses Bilbo with the right amount of hesitation and courage. 6/6

Overall: It’s not the squee-inducing ride that LotR was (thus far) but it’s Middle-Earth in capable, loving hands. You won’t be disappointed. 6/6

Total: 37/42

Miscellaneous

I saw the 2D, regular format, 24 fps version. I loathe 3D, but I am curious to see the 48 fps treatment (in 2D and 3D). Just not enough to shell out the extra cash for the experience. I’m hoping the premium Blu-Ray will have both so I can compare and contrast the difference. If anyone out there experienced the higher frame rate, please feel free to chime in.