Tolkien is my all time favorite author, and “The Lord of the Rings” my all-time favorite work of fiction. I consider “The Hobbit” a part of that work, the first act of four I suppose you could say. When Peter Jackson’s film version of LOTR came out I was intrigued and enjoyed parts of it, but found other things troubling, so I had mixed feelings about it, but as the entire trilogy came forth, and better yet the extended versions, I was gradually won over. Yes, there are things Jackson did I didn’t love, but he made a resonant and wonderful epic film overall, and I now consider it a favorite as well.
For this first of three Hobbit films, I went in knowing pretty much what to expect, such as lots of fighting (though the book doesn’t have very much, especially in the first third). That aside, there are many moments that are the book brought to life. Yes, there are some differences in the action and events, but the spirit is there throughout.
With LOTR there was a problem trying to get too much story into even that length of film. With “The Hobbit” it was just the opposite. There was room to add things, and they did. I liked most of what they added. For instance, Gandalf”s fellow wizard Radagast the Brown goes from a mere footnote elsewhere in Tolkien to a large character role here. He’s played a bit silly by Sylvester McCoy, but is entertaining all the same. There are a surprising number of characters from LOTR who reappear in this one. A few did in the book, but Jackson has found ways to get more of them into his new film. I liked that, actually, it helps bring a feeling of continuity, and it was good seeing them again. But the core of the film is carried by new faces: Martin Freeman as young Bilbo, and the thirteen dwarves. There are a few too many dwarves to get to know them all, but I liked their performances, and Freeman was excellent as Bilbo, as complex a portrayal as you could ask for. Ian McKellen as Gandalf is the other core player, and is as great as ever.
Would Tolkien have liked Jackson’s films? I doubt it. But this lifelong fan of the books finds them wonderful in nearly every respect, and I look forward to the rest, and then the exended versions as well.