Unless you are familiar with them from the book, few of the dwarves stand out besides their leader, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and Balin (Ken Stott). Keeping up with the rest for the unfamiliar may be more trouble than its worth at times.
Thorin and Bilbo are the films two most intriguing characters to say the least. Thorin, heir to the kingdom now lost to the dragon, has a tragic past and carries a lot of weight on his shoulders. Armitage does a great job of showing the dwarfs motivations and emotions that weigh on their journey.
Freeman is spectacular as Bilbo Baggins, who grows from being annoyed about mud tracked on his carpet, to being willing to help the dwarves through any situation. His growth as a character is the whole focus and Freeman gives an outstanding performance.
All of the staples of Jacksons Lord of the Rings films return, with elves, and dwarves, goblins and orcs and wolf-like wargs. The landscapes are again amazing, thanks to filming in New Zealand and the work of the production crew to create the city of Erebor, which looked amazing, and the familiar Elven land of Rivendell.
The films best sequences come when the company is captured by goblins after seeking shelter from a stone giant battle that looks awesome. Also, while captured, Bilbo escapes and meets the creature Gollum, with Andy Serkis returning to portray the creatures movements, facial expressions and voice.
Without a doubt, the interaction between Bilbo and Gollum is the best part of the film, with hilarious comedy in their game of riddles and Gollum is more creepy and disturbing than he ever was in the two Lord of the Rings films.
While Tolkien wrote The Hobbit first and then had to retroactively tie his Lord of the Rings novels in with that book, Jackson had to insert those connections into this first film. Theres a return of several characters from the Rings trilogy and hints at that trilogys villain Sauron, and of course, Bilbo finds the titular One Ring.
But, The Hobbit is more than just a prequel to Lord of the Rings. The films second half is so good, it stands alone as its own adventure thanks to the greatness of Freeman and Armitage, the relationship between their characters and how both grow from beginning to end.
The film is not without its danger, serious perils and scary moments, but its light-hearted attitude and litany of whimsical jokes may make it more appealing to younger audiences than Lord of the Rings, which are undoubtedly more serious.
The film is not without its pitfalls, mostly the first half that stumbles to get the story moving. If you can survive the opening half, you will be rewarded, although the film still clocks in at almost three hours.
The Hobbit is now playing and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 2 hours 49 minutes.
Editor Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.