(I swear on Durin's Beard, this pic is the extent of my backlash and spite.)
What I intend to do is give a relatively spoiler free review of the first Hobbit movie. I am going to try to point out various elaborations without "spoiling" anything, but I would warn people now that it is possible I could inadvertently reveal something YOU consider a spoiler. If that is the case, I apologize. That being said, after the review there are just a couple of things I want to spoil, so stop reading after the warning!
Those of you that are familiar with Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" movies will be comforted to see some similar cinematic effects almost right away to settle the viewer snugly back into Middle Earth. The "present" time takes place about 60 years prior to the LOTR trilogy, and Middle Earth is a calmer and cheerier place. There is little burden on the land from Mordor, and the Dwarves and Elves can afford to be snippy towards each other as they see fit, being both races proud and stubborn.
Surprise number one! Before Bilbo inadvertently hosts a large meal for 13 Dwarves and a Wizard, we are treated to an exciting history of Dwarvenkind in Erebor, and the evil of Smaug that befalls them. The Dwarves of Erebor are taken from the height of their prosperity and planted firmly low on the "food chain" of Middle Earth's free peoples.
Cue the actual beginning of "The Hobbit" now! I give credit to Martin Freeman for nailing all the "kindly, yet highly flustered" our poor Bilbo expresses by the sudden appearance of Dwarves demanding food and emptying his larder. His quaint politeness stands in an almost comedic contrast to the gruff, road-worn Dwarves making the early sequences very light-hearted and amusing.
For the viewers familiar with the book and associated material, Jackson delivers on many of the key visualizations and interactions that make the story complete. Even though there are tweaks here and there, only the most staunch and unmoving lore purist would even notice, let alone care. Poor old hapless Bilbo even forgets his handkerchief, which is unceremoniously remedied by Bofur.
One amazing aspect of the movie was the groundwork they lay for revelations concerning the "Necromancer" that is only hinted at briefly in the book. As a movie viewer, you are treated to some "behind the scenes" looks at events that will become very important in the later movies. However, because the implications are not clear for many viewers, these scenes can seem a little confusing and conflated.
By the end of the movie, the most important goal is accomplished: the upright, well-to-do, and stuffy Mr. Baggins sees fit to break free of societal norm and go on an adventure that is quite different than having afternoon tea with Old Gaffer Gamgee. There is magic, swords, legends, and dragons! Is there much more one can truly ask of a true fantasy movie?
My score is an "A-", it is a wonderful movie filled with all the Middle Earth beauty anyone could ask for, but it is not without blemish. Still, only the most cynical would let these few blemishes ruin what can be a very fun time with a Middle Earth movie that is more light-hearted than its very successful preceding trilogy.
CAUTION! SPOILERS BELOW!!! STOP READING NOW!!!
YOU WERE WARNED!
Spoilers! The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
-We finally get a few glimpses of the tremendously darty and secretive Dwarf Women! Guess what? NO BEARDS! That Aragorn is such a joker!
-Azog may lead the Orcs at the Battle of Five Armies? It's looking like it!
-The White Council is shown voicing their concerns about the Necromancer, The Witch King, and Dol Guldur.
-Radaghast the Brown makes an appearance!
-Radaghast the Brown makes an appearance! No, your friendly writer has not lost his senses. Many will dislike the depiction of Radaghast. Even though it is cool they included him, he is a screwy character whose interpretation is very contrived. I personally found him fun, just because Radaghast was never known as the best Wizard of all and he has not the standard to live up to like Gandalf may. However, even my fellow movie-goers found him somewhat distasteful.
-My biggest beef with this movie is that they allow some very modern collocations of linguistics and contemporary sense of humour leak into the movie. (Particularly with the Great Goblin of Goblin Town.) About the only way it could have been worse would be having Jar Jar Binks with dreds and gang colours saying stuff like, "Thassa waz meesa saying!" or, "Aws hell nos!". I deeply resented that sort of etymology being used in the movie.