Got back a wee while ago from The Hobbit.
Short reaction: oh my gosh, that was AMAZING.
Long reaction:My official review is here, this will be more of a gushy, somewhat spoilery (but not too much) response.
DUDE. This movie rocks. It rocks in a different way from LotR, but it’s still awesome nonetheless. You have no idea how hard it was for me to sit there and not make an idiot of myself. I had to stifle myself from squealing like a Tolkien nutter (which I am) during all the books-and-earlier-films references. I actually found myself, at one point, longing to move to Middle-earth and wishing that place was real, because frankly I’d rather be there than here. It’s kind of mind-blowing to see all the bridgework going on, to know in the back of your mind where all this is headed (the epic battles of Middle-earth) yet delight in the smaller things… like Gandalf discovering Sting, or Bilbo trading riddles in the dark (heh, heh) with Gollum. It’s so perfect, it makes me want to cry.
Yes, PJ and his girls have made some changes — some rather major ones, in fact, when it comes to creating an arch-nemesis orc for Thorin to deal with, and introducing Radagast. But although this might get mud thrown at me from Tolkien fans, I maintain that his changes here, just as in LotR, in many ways improve on and/or further illuminate the original. Tolkien was known for his epic scale ideas, not some of the tinier details like distinguishing characters’ personalities from one another. That’s what PJ does best, and what he’s done here. Throwing in the albino orc was a good idea, particularly since I know where he’s going with it — an epic showdown on the battlefield between the orc and Thorin in the final film. Tolkien often TOLD, PJ always SHOWS — and it’s great.
So, random thoughts:
Bilbo: Martin Freeman… you made the character your own, and you were bloody fantastic. Good show, mate. My favorite moment of yours was hesitating over whether or not to kill Gollum. I LOVE the fact that PJ chose not to do some cheesy voice-over in that moment, reminding us of what Gandalf said about “staying your hand.” Instead, we experience what Bilbo does — deep empathy for this wretched, vile, pathetic creature.
Thorin: you can make Richard Armitage short, but you can’t make him ugly. I admit, my fondness for the actor may have warmed me up toward the character a bit, since in the book I always thought he was kind of a pain. His attitude still irks me now and again on screen (particularly when interacting with Elrond) but… Armitage is terrific. I hope this finally gets him the attention he deserves, so he can cease playing villains on rather stupid television shows. (Sorry, the BBC’s Robin Hood was crap — and you know it.)
Balin: I’m singling out this dwarf because he’s so likable, so sensible, and so all-around awesome. All of them are wonderful characters, but Balin is the one I liked the best out of the dwarves.
Gandalf: it’s wonderful to go back to Gandalf the Gray, slightly uncertain of himself, in awe of Galadriel, and unsure about Saruman’s intentions. Some reviewers say this is Gandalf’s film and in a way, it really is — he always shows up at the nick of time to save everyone with his mad wizard skills.
Elrond: I love you, man. You’re also significantly less cranky here, which is nice. Plus, you rode in on a white horse wearing your battle armor. Please say this is foreshadowing for the elf-and-wizard battle against the Necromancer. (Speaking of which, OH MY GOSH, including the resurrection of the Witch-King was bloody ingenious.)
Galadriel: FINALLY, we can get away from the “creepy elf-witch” stigma she had going on in the LotR movies. I loved her interactions with Gandalf. Please, let us see her in battle at some point. I want to see what she’s capable of.
Radagast: I want an entire movie about this guy, he is that crazy awesome, what with the bird poop on his head and his sled pulled by bunnies. Please say we get more of him in the next film, or I might just cry.
Thranduil: I didn’t even think we’d get to see him in this movie! Yet there he was, in all his HD, haughty gorgeousness. Lee Pace, when did you get so beautiful? And you rode in on a FRICKIN’ STAG?! I might have flailed a bit, I won’t lie.
Gollum: even though I knew how that scene would end, it was still SCARY AND CREEPY AS HELL. ‘Nuf said.
I’d love to gush more but… tell me what you think. 🙂