LEAD CAST: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Orlando Bloom DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson SCREENWRITER: Peter Jackson PRODUCER: Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner, Fran Walsh EDITOR: Jabez Olssen MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Howard Shore GENRE: Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Lesnie DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bors. Pictures LOCATION: New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States RUNNING TIME: 162 minutes
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V 14
The story opens with Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and dwarven king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) clandestinely meeting at the Inn of the Prancing Pony. Gandalf senses a dark force lurking in the world, and advises Thorin to vanquish the dragon Smaug who had originally usurped from them their mountain fortress, and to reclaim their domain Erebor. A year later, the 13 dwarves, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the wizard Gandalf trek up the treacherous mountain to its lone peak where the fire-breathing Smaug resides.
Although those who have read the book swear that it is far superior to the film version, most viewers will agree that one need not read Tolkien’s creation in order to enjoy the film.
The Hobbit: the desolation of Smaug’s appeal rests on the novelty of the otherworldly milieu it presents. Never mind that it’s all fiction, and fraught with bloodletting and violence—as long as it engages the imagination and puts the viewer smack in the middle of the action. The serial offers ever-new perker-uppers to keep viewers hanging on, but maybe two are outstanding: the dwarves’ bout with the giant Mirkwood spiders that see their captives as “fat and juicy” snacks, and their dicey escape riding in wine barrels bouncing along the rapids down the river, a Bilbo Baggins stroke of genius. Indeed, the journey to Erebor to reclaim the dwarves’ lost kingdom is so perilous that towards the end the dragon Smaug seems no more menacing than a house lizard.
Is all that excitement—in a world populated by trolls, goblins, skinchangers, elves, wild and wooly orcs and monstrous talking spiders—meant as mere entertainment? All that gore—impalements by arrows and spears, beheadings, stabbings, skull bashing, albeit decimating the number of the bad guys—could make the viewer wonder, “What for?” Justice for the dwarves—in recovering a “stolen” kingdom? Extraordinary power for the victors? The message is clear: it’s the ageless fight between good and evil, and the victor emerges even clearer—noble heroism over greed and selfishness. The possession of power may be used for good or bad, so what would you do if you were part of that quest?