Half-Sized Hero Measures Up to Expectations

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: There And Back Again (2012) has garnered quite a bit of criticism for choices that some fans of the novel believe ruin an excellent story, such as the decisions to make the book into three separate movies, and to add extra plotlines. These critiques may be valid for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga, but The Hobbit must be looked at in a separate light. While the former is highly action-oriented and aimed at mature audiences, The Hobbit is intended for a younger generation of fans. Tolkien wrote the story for his young grandchildren to enjoy, and told it to them as a bedtime story.

As a consequence, there is a much greater emphasis on humor and light-hearted adventure, and the movie does an excellent job of getting this across. For example, fans of Jackson’s original trilogy will quickly notice that the movie is more colorful than its predecessor, and that its sets are more polished. This sets the tone for a story less dark and dire than that of the Rings saga. The supporting cast of the movie (mainly, the thirteen dwarves that accompany Bilbo Baggins on his journey) do an excellent job of keeping the tone upbeat and cheerful, even in the darkest of times.

British television actor Martin Freeman does a spot-on job as Bilbo Baggins, the unlikely hero of The Hobbit. He takes great effort to emphasize the awkward-yet-polite personality of Bilbo, and does it to great effect. In fact, I think his character really makes the film. The first act is primarily composed of Bilbo’s psyche slowly cracking as he is forced to entertain a gaggle of rowdy, rude and unwanted guests, eventually culminating in a full-blown panic attack. Freeman is funny and likeable, and does a great job selling the often-overdone “I don’t want to be a hero” character. However, those expecting a first act filled with action and excitement will be disappointed when it turns out to be excellently done British humor instead. Though the first act may seem to slog by for those not willing to lend an ear to Tolkien’s wit, there is a lot happening in both character development and setting the stage for the rest of the film.

Once the film takes leave of Bilbo’s peaceful little house, the action picks up very quickly. Jackson once again delivers on excellently choreographed action scenes and imaginative sets. Because Jackson wanted to turn The Hobbit into a trilogy, a few original plotlines are introduced. All of these, however, are based on discussions or events that took place in the book. For example, a character in the novel might have mentioned the name of some great foe in passing, whom Jackson then featured as a full-time antagonist. While some die-hard fans may see this as a serious mistake, I found Jackson’s (mostly) original characters to be very entertaining. They fulfill a need that perhaps even the book itself lacked: a constant threat.

I cannot recommend this movie to fans of non-stop action and blood-pounding adrenaline rushes. The first act is, admittedly, a touch slow from time to time, and the incredible action sequences can seem a bit too spaced out, but for fans of the original trilogy and fans of well-written dialogue with sprinklings of dry British humor and charm, I heartily recommend The Hobbit: There And Back Again.

By KEVIN GRANT ’14

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