Thoughts on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Starring Sylvester McCoy

****Contains spoilers****

Despite initial reservations about The Hobbit being turned into a trilogy, this is a terrific first instalment. I re-read the book last week and there are some very short scenes crying out to be expanded.

The additions and changes make more sense here than they sometimes did in The Lord of the Rings films (Frodo and Sam’s pointless detour to Minas Tirith for example). Best is the beefing up of the Orc threat backstory and the introduction of the star of the movie, Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy). It very much looks like the biggest frustration of the book will be addressed over the next two instalments. Namely, that Gandalf (Ian McKellan) turns up at the end of the novel casually explaining that he’s teamed up with the four other
wizards of Middle-Earth and defeated a necromancer in an epic wizard battle AND WE DON’T GET TO SEE IT! This promises to be a very very tantalising element of the sequels.

Martin Freeman is the perfect choice as Bilbo Baggins, the bemused, bewildered expression expression he perfected dealing with David Brent and Gareth in The Office suit the character. Richard Armitage is great as Thorin, a movie leading man waiting to happen since his role in the penultimate series of Spooks.

By far the best scene of the movie is Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum. Andy Serkis and Weta’s creation once more being an utterly captivating fusion of performance and CGI. The whole scene is electric, every expression on Gollum’s face is perfect and mesmerising.

Having the Eagles non-speaking is a good decision, as is (presumably) starting the next film with the arrivals at Beorn’s house, as this will serve as an effective re-introduction to the characters after a twelve-month gap.

I was less convinced by the framing device of opening with Bilbo and Frodo (Elijah Wood) just before Fellowship starts. Although most viewers now will have seen the other trilogy first, this will not hold true for future generations. When I show my future children all the films in the order, I’d rather there’s a sense of peril for Bilbo when he’s facing danger. This is a relatively minor complaint, and one that Tolkien is equally guilty of in the book.

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