The Hobbit was read to me in my infancy, but I subsequently forgot any parts of it that weren't recapped by the films of Lord of the Rings. I tried to read it around five years ago, but crashed out somewhere in chapter two, frustrated by the made-up sounding names of the dwarves, and all that singing.
I tried again this Autumn, accidentally starting on the 75th anniversary of the book's publication, and found a great deal to like. It's a fun adventure, full of incident, set within a well thought-out world of great detail. The problem is, the great detail doesn't turn up until very long sequel The Lord of the Rings.
I do like a splash of colour. Far greener than its Sequel.
In the end I read The Hobbit in the knowledge that the film adaptation was to be greatly expanded, unfolding 300 pages into nearly nine hours. Some have quavered, but I was glad of this fact. I'm a great believer that you can't do much with a novel in two hours, and everything happens so suddenly in this book. Gollum is in and out in a trice, given almost more backstory than story. Characters like the Goblin King and the Master of Lake Town turn up without being granted either names or physical descriptions of any kind. The thing was crying out for pictures and performances, for the care and attention of Peter Jackson, and an industrial tanker of helium with which to fill out the slightly insubstantial sketches that appear in some places in the book.
So, I went to see the movie in Oxford with a company of friends. Critics had warned me to be wary, but I had resolved to enjoy the film to the full, and I was in the right context to do so. As I hoped, this was a story told big, with, y'know, drama and emotions, as well as singing and falling over. It was broader and deeper than the book, not that the depth wasn't there in the Tolkien, but some was hitherto hidden by being in the wrong book. A fun adventure, but not just fun and adventurey. From book to film, twelve rather anonymous dwarves, who had been too much alike, too irritating and altogether too many have become about six interesting and excellently enjoyable characters and about six who will presumably show their merits in the next two portions of Hobbit. I'll get back to you about them in 2014.
I shan't say much more, as at this stage in 2012 you've probably seen more than enough review and comment on the subject, or have seen the film already and don't need to hear more. I'll just say a word for Sylvester McCoy, an actor I've long enjoyed and championed. It's a delight to see him on the big screen, especially when he gets to interact with, for instance, Ian McKellan, or a lovely hedgehog. I think he may divide opinion here, as he does everywhere, but I won't object if he makes more substantial appearances in the next two films, and then his own psychedelic veterinary spin-off.
Television's Dr Who in a big beard
Final thoughts: the 48 frames per second looked great, and I welcome it for the future. I'm glad I was wrong in my prediction that Sir Christopher Lee would die this year (and was likewise wrong about Sir Sean Connery and Sir Margaret Thatcher), and it's a fine thing to see him on display here being magnificently old. The man loves his Tolkien, and I'm sure he'll enjoy the film. And so will you, probably.
I've been a little excessive and updated thrice today. Partly I'm getting through a backlog of watched-recently-but-not-blogged films (though I'll slow those down), but I thought it worth getting this one up while it was still a new film, and also making sure I'd spoken about three very different films.