Tuesday 18 December 2012

An Unexpected Journey

Okay, so I'm a bit of a Tolkien fan. Maybe even a huge fan. I re-read The Lord Of The Rings every couple of years and I just adore the whole, epic majesty of Middle Earth. So the release of the first film in The Hobbit trilogy was kind of a big deal for me.

I remember stealing myself for disappointment when I went to see the first part of The Lord Of The Rings, worrying that Peter Jackson might have pushed the book through the Hollywood blender. Thankfully, he stayed close to the plot and the spirit of the original, and delivered a very enjoyable series of films, despite rumoured unhappiness from the writing team about Tolkien's alleged absence of strong female characters (and the curious downplaying of Eowyn, Tolkien's strongest female character).

So this time I wasn't overly worried about The Hobbit being mauled by the movies and, as it turned out, it was really a very enjoyable adaptation. Yes, there are one or two face-palm moments, such as Radagast's racing rabbits, and the Indiana Jones sequences in Goblin Town, but these are minor points that do nothing to spoil the experience. They also seemed to please the younger members of the audience, and this seems entirely appropriate as The Hobbit was always a tale for children to enjoy.

Perhaps that's the thing that pleased me most about it – that it was generally faithful to the spirit of the original story. Where things have necessarily been changed, care has been taken to ensure that the changes don't trample the books underfoot. Even the additional plot thread of the Pale Orc uses characters and back-story created by Tolkien, weaving them into the plot to keep up pace and tension.

The film cleverly manages to bring real individuality to the thirteen dwarves, rather than treating them as a group of extras, and Martin Freeman does a fantastic job of playing the younger Bilbo. Sir Ian McKellen is on fine form as Gandalf, and somehow Andy Serkis and the FX team at Weta deliver a Gollum that inspires both revulsion and pity – an amazing achievement for a wholly digital character.

It's exciting, it's engaging, and it's visually stunning. I think my only real complaint is that we have a rather long wait for the next instalment.

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