Sixteen-year-old Middle-earth newbie Naomi Shammas and 62-year-old Tolkien fanatic David Forrest present their views on a first time viewing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey...
As part of a seemingly shrinking minority of people who haven't read Tolkien's works or seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it seems that a valuable part of my education has now been filled. Few others will be able to say that they've seen these world-famous films in true chronological order! I was unsure what to expect from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, with a very limited knowledge of the Middle-earth world, characters or plot, but I now feel that I can consider myself partly on the mountainous path there!
I didn't really know what to expect when I entered the cinema. Greeted by the sight of Martin Freeman living in a remarkably well-furnished Hobbit hole, I settled into my seat for a long film: one filled with rolling green hills and a peacefully slow pace. I couldn't have been expecting anything further from the truth!
My favourite aspect of the film must have been the characters. From Bilbo Baggins, the quirky Hobbit with incredible character development, to Gollum, whom I found unusually adorable in a sort of psychopathic murderous way, each character had a defined personality: a unique way of acting that made even the minor characters, like the Goblin King, really remain memorable throughout the plot. The landscape shots too were a real highlight for me; while this may seem rather insignificant in a film of this calibre, the beautiful scenic shots of New Zealand really helped to create the desired image of this vast Middle-earth world.
There is a heavy load of action in the three-hour film. At certain points, like the escape from the Goblins society, it felt like the scenes went straight from one dramatic combat scene to the next - though this comes from someone who regularly watches rom-coms and dystopian films: so action lovers need not worry in the slightest!
But among the action-filled scenes, the different sub-plots really add interest to the film. Radagast, the wizard, so obsessed with nature that he lives with minimal human contact and a hedgehog for a best friend, brings a comedic element that also allows the introduction of the Necromancer to be brought into the film. Thorin's story of how he came to become king of the Dwarves was gripping, as was the story of the Lonely Mountain and the dragon that took over it. I was caught up in the plot; though three hours long, I did not want the film to end.
So... Is anyone up for a Lord of the Rings movie marathon to bring me up to date?
I first read The Hobbit as a teenager in the 1960s and was immediately drawn into the rich and intricate world of Middle-earth. A couple of years later I was laid up in bed and over the course of a few days read The Lord of the Rings trilogy in its entirety - I was hooked.
The Hobbit, lest it be forgotten, is at heart a children's book, so when both my children were small, I read it to them as bedtime stories. Reading out loud required a good deal of perseverance and ingenuity, finding a different voice for each character as I went along - and then remembering them night after night! The other problem would be whether or not to sing the songs - with the final decision usually based on the length of the song or how tired I was! Hearing the dwarves sing 'Over the Misty Mountains' in An Unexpected Journey was phenomenal - it added a dimension I would never have been able to produce, and the tune is carried through the film at various points to add to the thrilling atmosphere of foreboding and adventure.
I remember being thrilled when The Lord of the Rings films were released. With Tolkien's works already a big part of our lives, seeing the films became an annual event, with my daughter travelling home so we could watch them together and marvel at Peter Jackson's skill, ingenuity and loyalty in bringing the story to life.
Now, again, we have that chance with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Opening inside the cosy hobbit hole of Bag-End, it's like returning home or revisiting long-missed friends and I was able to settle into a comfortable state of familiarity very quickly. I enjoyed seeing the characters of the dwarves emerge with Thorin definitely showing his dominance over the others. The incredible opening scene at Erebor reminds us of the Dwarves' rich history and serves as useful background for newcomers to the story.
Where previously he pioneered motion capture, here now Jackson pioneers spectacular new technology; I loved the definition of 48fps and the use of 3D for me was just right - I only had to dodge out of the way of flying objects twice and it gave great depth to the action scenes. But however you choose to watch it - 48 frames or 24 frames, 3D or 2D - there are moments that will captivate.
Andy Serkis, as Gollum, is as captivating as ever and looks realistically younger that in The Lord of the Rings films. The scene where he and Bilbo, played by Martin Freeman, meet in the caves beneath the mountains is played out with perfect timing and a real feel for the original story.
I was delighted by the whole film and can't wait for the next one. If you're an old hand at Tolkein or a total newcomer, you won't be disappointed by this film. Go and see it for yourself, you'll be in for a treat.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is released in cinemas on 13th December.
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