I finally made it to the theater to see THE HOBBIT, PART 2. I did not see it in 3D, and I don’t think my enjoyment of the movie was any the less for that. And yes, I did enjoy the movie very much. I am an avid Tolkien fan, but not such a purist that I am going to bark too much if a film-maker needs to add scenes or characters to make the story work as well on film as it does on the written page. I think Jackson’s additions fit the theme and the spirit of Middle Earth. And – I blush to admit it – I can never get too much of Orlando Bloom. Legolas!!!!
There were quite a few things that surprised me about this film because I’d paid absolutely no attention to any publicity about it. Legolas’s appearance was the first surprise. And then, intrigued by the new character of Tauriel, I did a little exploring and discovered who played that role: Evangeline Lilly from LOST. I didn’t even recognize her with that long red hair. And then I found out that Benedict Cumberbatch was in the film, too. No way could I have recognized him!
So yes, I enjoyed the film. The barrel scene went on a bit too long, but that’s a quibble. It’s different than how it happened in the book, but it’s far more cinematic this way. Action! Orcs! Arrows. MORE LEGOLAS!!! Yes!!! (Ahem. Sorry.)
The opening scene of the film not only sets the mood, it brings us into the story, in medias res, without going over a lot of the back story that occurred in the previous film. High marks for that, Mr. Jackson. I read The Hobbit many decades ago, and it is dim in my memory except for the high points. It seems to me that the changes/additions remove some of the whimsy from the story and add a layer of darkness, danger, and of course, more action. It becomes more adult. In the film, the dwarves’ arrival at the home of Beorn is more fraught with danger; the orcs’ attack during the barrel riding scene is more of an action sequence; the political tensions in Lake Town add both action and danger.
I cannot say enough about how much I admire Martin Freeman’s Bilbo. He conveys just the right combination of confusion, consternation and courage – a character caught up in something much larger than he is quite able to comprehend, yet carrying on despite his bewilderment. He places one foot in front of the other to whatever the end might be, even though the predicaments he gets into are always far worse than what he anticipated.
As for the complaint I have seen that there is too much padding in the film, it didn’t appear that way to me. (Granted, I’m a Tolkien nut. I love all of it. I eat it with a spoon.) I have not read every one of Tolkien’s published works about Middle Earth, but I agree with my friend Christopher Cevasco who suggests that Jackson is utilizing a great deal more of Tolkien’s material than appears in the novel The Hobbit. I very much like the segments that follow Gandalf’s journey to Dol Guldur. He speaks of it at the council of Elrond in The Fellowship of the Ring, but he goes into no detail. I don’t know if it is covered in any of Tolkien’s other stories, but that Jackson takes up that bit of the larger tale and places it here works for me.
Finally, a few remarks on the look of the film. Mirkwood was deliciously gloomy and the
elvencaves beautifully rendered. I love the first glimpse we see of Bilbo facing Smaug on his bed of gold. It matches a memory I have of Tolkien’s drawing of this event, only on a much larger scale. But the setting I love the most is Lake Town with its Norse look. The mayor’s house must have been modeled on Norway’s stave churches, and it gives the place a Viking feel very much suited to Middle Earth and Tolkien.