For a movie with the subtitle “An Unexpected Journey,” Bilbo Baggins really does get a huge notice ahead of time. In fact he has enough notice to run away from his home and let the dwarves wait at his door step. Director Peter Jackson really has his work cut out for him, as he has to adapt “The Hobbit” while also trying to remind the audience that this is connected in a large way to “Lord of the Rings.” So, he shoe horns in a cameo from Frodo Baggins, as played by Elijah Wood, and we then enter in to the rather long story afoot.
“The Hobbit” is not a terrible film. It garners some really exciting action set pieces and wonderful back story. I mean I cared a lot about Thorin’s grudge with the evil Orc giant Azog, and I wanted to see how their rivalry would fare. It’s a unique and entertaining story about revenge and an age old war of wounds still healing from battle. It’s just you have to wade through ninety minutes of filler, padding, and terribly tedious dialogue before director Peter Jackson gets to the really entertaining romps through Middle Earth, and in to worlds like Hobbiton and the Misty Mountains. The movie literally sits us down and makes us watch the dwarves gather for dinner, eat dinner, talk during dinner, and then clean the plates.
Not to mention there are so many flashbacks that act as clunky exposition, it gets exhausting after the tenth flashback in to an epic battle. The characters spend so much time living in the past, it’s a wonder they get anything done at all. Beyond that, the stakes just aren’t harrowing. In “Lord of the Rings,” Frodo Baggins had to take the evil to Mount Doom and burn it in lava to risk Sauron using it to rule over Middle Earth and destroy the good in it. In “The Hobbit,” Bilbo Baggins has to help a bunch of dwarves get their house back, and then fight a large dragon for the gold it stole from them. How suspenseful. Bilbo isn’t a very interesting character either, which is a shame since Martin Freeman’s casting as Baggins is a stroke of brilliance.
Bilbo is for the most part a selfish and self centered character, and shows very little redemption by the time the film reaches the two hour mark. Which doesn’t matter, I’m assuming, since the film ends on a scene that is meant to just enter in to the next film, rather than serve as a finale. The final scenes in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy often were endings, but with open doors. The final scene in “The Hobbit” feels like a terrible cop out, and one that doesn’t lend much mystery to the narrative. In the end, Bilbo is still just saving a bunch of gold for a group of dwarves. Try as he might, director Peter Jackson won’t be able to make audiences feel like the world is at stake. Beyond that, much of the film is still just lip service and nods to the original trilogy in an effort to keep audiences from losing their patience on what is supposed to be a loose prequel.
We really don’t need to see an old Bilbo when we saw him in the first “Lord of the Rings,” and his dissolve in to the younger Bilbo seems like director Jackson is once again holding his audiences hands. That said, “The Hobbit” has some fun material to it. Jackson keeps the fun and raucous musical numbers, which really lend a festive warrior sensibility to the characters. And I also thought Azog was an impressive villain that really helped the group’s welfare feel in constant jeopardy. If only because Thorin is the strongest warrior in the group and his grudge with Azog could be disastrous. I also thought the execution of the classic riddle scene between Bilbo and Gollum was pulled of beautifully. “The Hobbit” is a lot of padding and filler with very little pay off. You can sense director Jackson is pacing himself and trying to spread out the events in to two films without coming up empty handed. This results in an occasionally entertaining but empty fantasy epic that really could have told the entire tale in one film.
The Extended Edition Blu-Ray comes with a slew of extras obscenely detailed, but fitted for the Tolkien film buff that enjoyed an hour of magical characters eating dinner and singing. The full length audio commentary features Peter Jackson and co-writer Phillipa Boyens, both of whom discuss the making of “The Hobbit” with no detail spared. The commentary is fun and engaging and perfect for any Tolkien fan anxious to sit through three hours of Jackson and Boyens relaying every anecdote they can throw in to the extended version of “The Hobbit.” The seven minute “New Zealand: Home to Middle-Earth” explores every single nook and cranny of New Zealand and how they used to bring Middle Earth to life.
“The Appendices Part 7” clocks in at over four hours in length, featuring a cadre of extras and Easter eggs, many of which include an introduction by Peter Jackson, an hour long documentary about production on the film, and technical aspects like costumes and effects, a look at the making of the memorable and excellent “Riddles in the Dark” sequence, and oh so much more. “The Appendices Part 8” clocks in at another five hours, with features that including a six part documentary that delves in to the history of the five dwarve descendents, and their families, and a sixteen minute look at the adaptation of Bilbo Baggins from book to screen as hosted by star Martin Freeman.
There’s also the hour long look at the concept and make up effects that were implemented to bring the dwarves and elves to life, and an hour long look at the other denizens of Middle Earth and the creatures that surround the traveling troop. The final Appendice is an hour long and discusses the creation of all of the amazing locales from Hobbiton to the Misty Mountains, and of course there’s a half hour look at the songs of “The Hobbit” and how they fit the raucous and funny songs like “Blunt the Knives,” “Misty Mountains,” “The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late,” “Goblin Town” and “Song of the Lonely Mountain” to the big screen.