The Hobbit

The Hobbit is an entertaining movie.

I say this not as a Lord Of The Rings trilogy nerd. I couldn’t get into the movies, just as I couldn’t get into the books when I was in college and every sci fi and fantasy fan was raving about them. Even after watching The Hobbit — and watching it, and watching it, and watching it some more, because it is overlong as every Peter Jackson film seems to be — I’m still not sure I fully grasp the distinctions between dwarves, elves, trolls, hobbits, and orcs. And there may even be gnomes in there too, for all I can remember. It helps, I think, not to get too caught up in the unending back story, and all of the weird details of Middle Earth. The important thing is that it’s a good adventure yarn.

Stripped of creature distinctions and deep metaphysical analysis, the movie is about a quest, and an unlikely hero. The quest involves helping dwarves who have been displaced from their home by an evil, gold-loving dragon, and the unlikely hero is a hobbit Everyman who would rather be in his comfortable burrow with his books and his pantry than camping out and fighting evil orcs, but who rises to the occasion when he needs to. There is a journey, which helps because it gives everyone a chance to see some stunning on location scenery. And, because it’s apparently a law that you cannot make a self-contained Middle Earth movie, this is only part one, with part two yet to come.

This movie is’t perfect by any means. It’s too long, and requires the viewer to have a cast-iron keister and a bladder the size of Lake Superior.  Couldn’t the scenes of the forest wizard with bird droppings on the side of his face, or the fighting rock beings, have hit the cutting room floor? I could have done without most of the shots of evil wolf beings bounding across the screen, too. Although this movie didn’t scrimp on computer-based special effects — the scenes with Gollum are as good as any special effects you’re likely to see this year — computer-generated animals always look fake to me. The fight scenes, too, were overdone. At some point, whether the hardy band of warriors slaughters a hundred orcs and trolls or a thousand, what difference does it make? The important thing is that they emerge without a scratch.

All of those issues, though, don’t detract from the enjoyment of the movie. It’s a top-notch tale, capably told, with likeable characters to boot. If you like adventure movies, with a bit of magic and fantasy mixed in, The Hobbit is worth your while.

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