I loved the Hobbit when I was eight. It's a great little children's book full of vibrant characters and ridiculous monsters. Tolkien actually rewrote some of the text once The Lord of the Rings was out in order to tie more of The Hobbit back to his more adult master piece. Bilbo is brought to life superbly by Martin Freeman. All the spikiness of the character is nailed perfectly and there's plenty of the humour that Tolkien injected into the quest to the Lonely Mountain. The Hobbit is a relatively short book and this is the first of three movies that will take us to the aforementioned mountain and back. It feels like too much and twenty minutes in it was starting to feel like one movie might be too much. We all like the Shire, it's cute and quaint, but did we really need to see old Bilbo to set the movie up? Nope. Just crack on with it Jackson. Sigh.
The introduction of the twelve dwarves and a younger, less wise Gandalf, feels over long too. It's kind of fun in places and interspersed with the dwarves back story, but bloody hell it goes on and on. And on.
Once the quest is underway the pace picks up considerably and it's not long before our heroes are fighting Orks and Goblins, meeting the Elves and by the end Bilbo has stumbled into a certain ring belonging to a certain Gollum and the three hours has managed to go by in a bit of a flash. The film starts working the minute The Shire is left behind because it starts to feel more like the Lord of the Rings movies. We're off in Middle Earth on a quest and it's all a bit more fun than last time. Super.
The Hobbit was never going to be easy to make. Not because of the technology involved but because the tone of the book is so different to it's sequels. It takes Peter Jackson a good half hour to get the mix right and the film nearly pays for that. By the time that ring appears though, you're as hooked as you were when it fell into the seething lava of Mount Doom.
It's not perfect, I might cry the next time I see an arial shot of some small people walking about on a hill, but there's much here to love. Just not as much as last time.