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Billy Summers: ‘The Hobbit’ magical, musical and beautiful

Dec. 23, 2012 @ 06:43 PM

Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings” movies, “King Kong,” “The Lovely Bones”) takes us, once again, to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, this time starting at the beginning, with a film adaptation of the 1934 novel.

Since I have only seen bits and pieces of the “Lord of the Rings” movies, and had never read the books (although I have tried several times during my lifetime to read “The Hobbit”), I will judge this movie on its own merits, something that I usually try to do with prequels, sequels and “series” movies (the Bond films, the “Pink Panther” movies, etc.).

“The Hobbit” follows a quiet, ordinary, humanoid-like being as he is recruited into a band of merry dwarves, on a quest for their long lost kingdom.

Veteran actor Ian Holm (“Lord of the Rings” movies, “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan,” “Alien”) opens the story as the elder Bilbo Baggins, telling an autobiographical  tale of 60 years before, where Martin Freeman (“Love Actually,” “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “The Office”) plays the younger Bilbo.

Looking like a cuter version of Dudley Moore, Freeman mugs his way through the movie with as much boyish charm as can be affected by any adult. His facial expressions should earn a special Academy Award, as at least 50 percent of his acting is done with facial mannerisms instead of dialogue.

The leader of the band of vagabond warriors is Richard Armitage ( “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “MI-5,” “Robin Hood”) as Thorin Oakenshield, the prince of a people driven from their kingdom by a dragon, and also a veteran of wars with Orcs, Goblins, and other mythical beings.

Although Thorin is the recognized leader of the group, it is Gandalf the Grey, played once again by Ian McKellen ( “The Lord of the Rings” movies, “X-Men” movies, “Apt Pupil”), a wise old wizard who is the power and the intelligence behind the throne. He is the wise old sounding board that any good ruler is required to have in these kinds of stories, both in fiction and in real life.

This is a wonderful movie, not just because of the acting and dialogue, but also because of the CGI artwork and the music. Yes, I said the music…

Being the most tone-deaf person on the planet, I seldom notice a movie’s musical features, but in “The Hobbit” there is a remarkable amount of sound that enhances some of the best scenes, specifically the “giant hawks” scene, among others. This is a wonderful non-musical picture, in terms of music.

As for the graphics, “The Hobbit” brings to life all of the old Brothers Hildebrandt artwork that I grew up with. From the “Dungeons & Dragons” gaming world, to the “Lord of the Rings” calendars and other masterpieces of fantasy art, Tim and Greg Hildebrandt (along with Frank Frazetta) are the reason that I dabble in cartooning and other forms of drawing, myself.

This movie totally brings to life all of the fantasy Hildebrandt characters that have populated the fantasy worlds of Geeks the world over. In the massive battlefield scenes, especially, you almost feel as though you are THERE!  

Yes, you still realize that the beings are all fictional, no one is trying to make them into ‘real-life’ creatures, but you still feel as though a miniature war is happening right in front of you. CGI at its finest.

I watched both the 2-D and the 3-D versions of this movie, and although the 3-D sequences were really cool and did benefit from the $3-glasses technology, the 2-D version was only slightly less exciting and fascinating.

The New Zealand landscapes that Jackson used in all of his “Lord of the Rings” films also does well here, recreating Tolkien’s view of Middle Earth, a place strange to our American eyes.

This is truly a magnificent adventure experienced, not just by Bilbo, but by everyone in the audience, as well. It flows well from beginning to end, covering its entire three hours with interesting visual spectacle and outstanding sound to show that a movie can honestly “take you away” from reality for a couple of hours.

The movie ends with the probability of a “Hobbit” 2 (and even 3), and I anxiously await Peter Jackson’s next effort.

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.