Yesterday at midnight, my friends and I were sitting through the ads and getting ready to watch The Hobbit: And Unexpected Journey at New Zealand’s premier, the first in the world. And we saw it!!!! And it was very exhilarating, and exciting, and really quite long.
This post is going to try to give information about the movie both with and without spoilers – I’ll be using little numbers, and putting the spoilers related to the topics at the bottom, with a warning sign.
The movie was really good, altogether. I’m not saying fantastic, or magnificent, but it was really good. That said, I felt that there were a few snippets that weren’t very necessary, and one in particular that really derailed the narrative a bit (see spoilers at bottom) . Overall, it was, I think, more violent than LOTR, but not by too much, and M is the right rating for it.
The casting was brilliant. Martin Freeman makes for a comedic, heart-felt performance that enhances the audience interaction in the film, which could be seen throughout the audience as people laughed out loud. The dwarves were, I felt, mostly characterised, and it was quite easy to tell between them, and figure out their roles . The interactions between the company are amusing, sometimes touching, and overall the camaraderie is great – I’m really liking the way that the relationships have been set out. Sir Ian McKellan, as Gandalf, was once again fabulous, and the villains of the film – Azog the Pale Orc (from an appendix) and the Goblin King – were both cast very well in my opinion . So, the casting was a success. F.I.G.W.I.T. fans will also be very pleased, as Brett McKenzie from Flight Of The Concords reprises his role of Frodo Is Great/Gone…Who Is That??!!??, an elf who now has two little cameos and more than a full sentence of dialogue, as well as a close up shot!!
Andy Serkis is AMAZING!! He gets his own little paragraph. Everyone knows that Serkis is an awe-inspiring actor, and this is absolutely clear when he appears as Gollum once more. The Riddles In The Dark scene was noted to be the highlight of the film  by everyone who I eavesdropped on after the film had finished, and this is in no small part because of Serkis’ performance. Additionally, the motion capture and digital Gollum are even more realistic and detailed, if you had thought it was possible.
Weta Digital and Weta Workshop have outdone themselves. With more intricate sets like the goblin caves, gloriously detailed models like Rivendell and ‘real’ helicopter shots of beautiful scenery and Hobbiton, the setting of the film is absolutely delightful. The prosthetics and Special Effects work is seamless, and characters like Azog and the Eagles are made realistic and painstakingly, which is definitely a bonus, as everything is sharp and very well made. The weaponry is once again masterful, and in scenes such as the Storm Giants’ fight, you can really see how far we’ve come into the digital decade. The costuming is wonderful, with Galadriel looking as ethereal as before, and the newly introduced Mirkwood elves and Thranduil, their king appearing as different from the Rivendell elves as the Lorien ones are. The dwarves look incredible as well, with their clothing reflecting their wandering and tough natures, as well as showing off things like Bombur’s belly.
Smaug. Well, like I thought, you don’t really get to see much of Smaug, but what you do see is brilliant. There’s quite a build up , until the very, very last thing you see on screen before the credits is his eye, opening to fill the screen.
The score is wonderful. I really loved the music in LOTR, and The Hobbit draws on this and incorporates it into key scenes such as Bilbo picking up the One Ring, and Hobbiton scenes, in a way which gives continuity and has the effect of giving us familiar aspects that will be remembered next time we watch the LOTR trilogy again. There is also some deep and reverberating new theme tunes which crop up every time there is a battle scene with the dwarves, and is woven around the central celtic-like dirge that the dwarves are seen singing in the trailer (which is gorgeous, by the way, I adore the newfangled song, which was adapted from the original in The Hobbit).
I saw the film in 3D, and while is worked quite effectively, and gave the experience another level, in some places, I noticed that it drew your eyes to the forefront, even though the action was in the not 3D part of the scene, which meant you needed a bit of adjustment.
So, at this point I’m wondering whether Beorn will be central to the second film, as he was quite important in the novel, and how much more embellishing Peter Jackson will do. Also, how the film turned out in 48FR, which I didn’t see because I thought it would be too much of a risk for the first time watching a movie.
And that is that for now, methinks. I’d love to have your opinion on the film, or on my commentary and opinions, and if you can bear spoilers, keep reading, because there’s a lot more to come!
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!!!!
 Length. Well, the narrative was a bit disjointed, but not too much. It was a very long movie, and Peter Jackson kept putting in dramatic pauses that made me think – aha! Now it’s going to finish – and then keep going. The White Council scene, which mostly serves as, I think, a cameo of Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman, did provide for continuity, as we hear Saruman denying the presence of Sauron, thus betraying the rest of the Council by lying and misleading, which is mentioned in LOTR. There were, similarly to LOTR, quite a lot of gorgeous helicopter shots of the company walking, which filled quite a lot of time, and I believe that some of the fight scenes could have been shortened. Also, at the beginning of the film, while the dwarves are in Bilbo’s house, there is a lot of singing and tomfoolery, that while I appreciated, should have probably been in the extended addition or director’s cut (not that I’m complaining too much, because the whole Bag End scene is great! Funny, and, as I said previously, I love dwarvish songs). Another thing I felt was unnecessary, this one much more than the others, was the Radagast the Brown scenes. Yes, Sylvester McCoy probably had a great time filming them, but unless Sebastian the Hedgehog proves to be vital in the next films, the 10 minutes or so of trying to save his life will go completely ignored, as it derails the plot and really serves no purpose. It would have made a fine deleted scene, though.
The beginning and end scenes. I loved them both. It starts, as you know, with Bilbo starting to write ‘A Hobbit’s Tale, There and Back Again’, and features Frodo and Party Business sign. Ian Holmes then narrates the battle of Erebor, which is beautifully filmed and gives us the background about the dwarves situation in a familiar way that draws on LOTR trilogy. I thought it was great.
The end scene….well, I knew it was the end scene. Contrary to many people’s belief, the film did not even get up to Mirkwood, let alone to the barrels down the river. Instead, it ended just after the Eagles had rescued the company from Azog and the orcs (chapter 6 in The Hobbit , ‘Out of The Frying Pan and Into The Fire’, which is a statement quoted by Gandalf and Thorin in the scene itself). The Eagles are voiceless here, and just fly the company to a tall rock ledge, where there is a short emotional scene where Thorin concedes that he was wrong about Bilbo. They then look up at the Lonely Mountain way ahead, and the camera follows a thrush to the mountain, where its loud snail eating wakes Smaug up. As his eye opens and fills the screen, the film ends. I think that it was a very good place to end the film, not least because it would have been really hard for the company to get down from the tall, sheer outcropping they landed on. 😛
 The dwarves. Well, you can tell the dwarves did boot camp, from the way they all interact with each other in Bilbo’s hobbit-hole as they sing and miraculously don’t break any cutlery or dishes! There are also definite roles – Thorin leads, Balin acts as the advisor, Bofur connects with Bilbo, Fili and Kili are the eye-candy and the two youngsters, Ori is the youngest and the adorable silly klutz, Bombur is the greedy fatso…and they all have different ways of fighting, which also helps to characterise them further.
 Azog, as mentioned, is from an appendix, and doesn’t appear in the original Hobbit. Neither does the Necromancer, which is introduced to us through Radagast, and, in my opinion needs to be expounded upon in further films for his presence to be validated, as at the moment he is just a whispy black threat with no real relation to the story. As such, his purpose is not yet clear.
 Riddles In The Dark – the riddles used were all original quotes from The Hobbit, are were as follows:
What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows? (mountain)
Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still. (teeth)
Voiceless it cries,
Mouthless mutters. (wind)
A box without hinges, key or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid. (egg)
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down. (time)
And, of course, the famous “what has it got in its pocketesses?”
Gollum and Bilbo have a brilliant interactive scene, which really solidates the film in my opinion. It is both amusing, with Gollum’s dual personality coming through (“Shut up!!” “I wasn’t talking to you“) and a creepy foreshadowing of what is to happen in LOTR.
The other highlight of the film is the Troll scene, where this time it is Bilbo who plays for time, rather than Gandalf (to funny ends and to build up his reputation in the dwarves minds). These two scenes are just brilliant, and without them, I doubt the film would have garnered half as much good opinions as I heard.
 The build up to Smaug is really well done, because first of all, you see his effects – stuff burning, people running away, etc. Then you see his flames, and then his claws and a little bit of his feet as he stomps on dwarves. As he conquers Erebor, and enters the Lonely Mountain, you see the last flick of his tail. Then, at the end, he is completely buried in gold, and you see his blue/red nostril as he puffs a breath…and then his eye opens. It really builds up the suspense around him, and I look forward to seeing more of Smaug in future films.
 Foreshadowing. There’s a bit of this, two sentences that I’ll focus on. One is Gandalf’s :“All good stories deserve embellishment”, which seems to be directed at the audience, and the other is his “Your pride will be your downfall” to Thorin, which will come in later after The Lonely Mountain has been conquered by the dwarves.