This was in development hell for nearly a decade, but it December 2012, we finally got a welcome return to Middle Earth.
Based on J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 novel The Hobbit this is the first entry in a new trilogy focusing on events prior to the LOTR trilogy.
60 years before the events of Fellowship, we follow a younger Bilbo Baggins as he gets thrust into a quest to help the wizard Gandalf and a company of 12 dwarves lead by the mighty Thorin Oakenshield to reclaim the dwarf kingdom of Erebor that was taken over long ago by the dragon Smaug.
Given how the novel is 310 pages or so, it's pretty obvious that there's a lot of padding going on, especially since this one book is being adapted into a trilogy, and this, it's first part, is 170 minutes long. No, it's not really necessary to do this, and yeah, making it two parts would be better, as it's unlikely they'd go for just a single super long film, but at the same time, even though a relatively simple and compact story is blown out into epic proportions, it also means we get a fair amount of supplemental material from the Tolkien canon thrown in as well, which, for die hard fans, might be considered a good thing.
Personally, I'm on the fence about it. Yeah, some of the extra stuff is cool, but I really don't think it's necessary to make things so bloated and lengthy. Of course money is the main factor for all of this, but, despite my disagreements with some of this, I will admit that I'm happy to have more of Middle Earth get the big screen treatment.
And let's be honest: at this stage of his career, serving up epic spectacle is what Peter Jackson really excels at.
The film looks great, and, even though the decision to make this trilogy in 3D and shot in a high frame rate isn't the most necessary thing either, I was glued to the screen for the whole running time.
Martin Freeman is great as young Bilbo Baggins, and we get welcome returns from Ian McKellan as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum in what is easily the film's best scene. Other cast members from the Rings trilogy appear as well, and it's nice to see them, but it also felt a tad forced. Among the new cast, none of them are really remarkable except for Richard Armitage as Thorin. All the rest of the dwarves just feel interchangeable and unremarkable.
The action scenes are well done, the effects, though CGI heavy, are also quite strong, and the music too, is quite stunning.
Obviously since this is the first in a new trilogy it's kinda anti-climactic, but since I try to be optimistic more than pessimistic, I'll be nice and call it a nice tease for things to come.