Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Sir Ian McKellan, Evangeline Lily, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans and Benedict Cumberbatch
Plot: As the dwarves get closer to the Lonely Mountain, Gandalf (McKellan) gets wind of the return of an old enemy, Azog the Defiler sends his strongest Orcs after Thorin (Armitage) and Bilbo (Freeman) begins to get corrupted by the ring.
One of my favourite things about both Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit is that no matter how epic a feeling you get when you sit in the cinema, safe in the knowledge that either of these trilogies are more than just three movies, but an event, yet each film still starts small. The moment we hear that blissful flute music we cannot help but smile and get relaxed. It is one of the many tricks up Peter Jackson’s sleeve.
And he has plenty more. When you are watching a film that has a two and a half hour running time, you need to make every scene exciting and necessary, something many directors could not manage. In fact, Peter Jackson is one of the only directors I would trust to manage such a daunting task. Length is still the biggest complaint of this movie, but, personally, I never felt that. Sure, there were moments that could have been trimmed (as much as I hate to admit it, too long was spent on Smaug), but on the whole, I was actually upset when this film ended (especially with that cliff-hanger!). I was having so much fun being immersed into this awe-inspiring universe that I was not ready to leave the cinema. Everything is just so beautiful, from the jaw-dropping locations to the magnificent CGI used on the monsters of Middle-Earth. Every frame is a treat.
I want to talk about the Mirkwood spiders for a second, because it is my favourite chapter in the book and the scene I was most excited to see. I just hoped that Peter Jackson would get it right. For a chronic arachnophobe, I sure do love throwing myself right back into the punishment. And the sequence was eerily amazing. Peter Jackson handled the foreshadowing perfectly, with the vibrations heading down the web and the overall tone. We all knew what was coming, but Peter Jackson made us wait, until every hair was standing up on the back of our necks. The reveal was no less enthralling. There was something so magical, yet disturbing about the fluid, methodical movements of the spiders. While Shelob from ‘Return of the Kings’ was a hulking brute of a spider, the Mirkwood spiders are smaller and more graceful, which is good, because we don’t get a repeat of Shelob and also, when the spiders start getting killed off, this doesn’t lessen the fear factor of Shelob.
Another thing I was pleased about was getting rid of Gandalf from the narrative. I have mentioned before how, despite Ian McKellan being a terrific actor for the role, he does hurt the story. Almost every problem in the first Hobbit and several times throughout the first trilogy is that the characters are never in any danger, because Gandalf always comes in and saves the day. By stretching the Necromancer side of the story, Gandalf is both given more screen-time and kept separate from the dwarves, meaning that some lesser characters have some more time to shine, especially in a terrific barrel escape that gets every laugh it can. Another surprising factor I found enjoyable was Orlando Bloom. I was unsure if bringing back Legolas was a good call for this movie, but he definitely brought a certain pace to the film. His fight scenes were more fluid and fun to watch, something that we don’t really get with the bulky dwarves. The same goes for Tauriel, finally a female Lord of the Rings character we can get behind, even if her entire character arc is ‘mmmm, I want me a piece of that dwarf’.
There were so many little details I loved as well. Bilbo’s slow corruption from the ring, the suggestion that Thorin is the biggest villain of them all, the cheeky opening cameo from Peter Jackson… the Verbal Spew pugs wandering around Laketown. It all worked so well. Peter Jackson simply makes these movies fun to be around and we end up enjoying every moment. I cannot wait for the final film, which should be nothing short of extraordinary.
Final Verdict: The scenery is so gorgeous, the actors so talented and the story so fun, that the Hobbit remains as fun as ever. Always a pleasure.