The Hobbit was actually the first major book I ever read. I was never much of a reader when I was younger, and outside of an occasional Goosebumps book, I never read much of anything. But sometime in about 5th grade, I found this book and pretty much devoured it (though I haven't read it since). In other words, I've been pretty hyped for this particular adaptation. The film follows about the first third of the book. Years after an ancient dragon named Smaug takes over a dwarven kingdom, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) gathers a group of dwarves led by dwarf prince Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to travel back, defeat the dragon, and reclaim the kingdom. But they need a little more help, so Gandalf asks a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to come along. On their travels, they face trolls, orcs, goblins, and an enemy from Thorin's past. There's also whispers of a new, dangerous sorcerer called the Necromancer, though he doesn't come into play just yet. Who does, though, is a strange little creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis), who has a run-in with Bilbo... who finds an important little bit of jewelry in the process.

This is much more of a children's film than the Lord of the Rings films. Everything is much more lighthearted here--no heavy political dramas or demonic, black-cloaked monsters. There are battles, but they're not as gritty and life-threatening. I mean, there's definitely a sense of danger, and it feels like anyone could die at any moment... but at the same time, you're pretty sure none of them will. The action is plentiful once the film gets to that part of the story, and it all looks pretty good. None of it is anything like Helm's Deep or the like, but it works for what it is.

Also, there is a lot of humor in this movie. I laughed quite a bit throughout. The film definitely plays up some slapstick, funny looks, and playful lines. And this is both a good and not-so-good thing. On the one hand, during some slower sections, you have Bilbo's reaction to things which are entertaining. And almost all the humor works and works well throughout the entire film. But on the other hand, sometimes it takes it a bit far. For instance, there's a moment where a big enemy is killed, and he gets a few humorous last words before dying. I get the idea of it, but it does take away from the seriousness of the situation or any drama or tension that could be been building up.

The acting is pretty top notch here. Of course Ian McKellen is still fantastic as Gandalf. And Andy Serkis' return as Gollum is probably the best part of the movie. It's fun, funny, and just pretty dang entertaining. Everybody is on top of their game in the film. But the true shout-out goes to Martin Freeman, who was brilliant as Bilbo. Everything from his comic timing to the sincere believability of his internal conflicts is just done so well. Even a simple look on his face or in his eyes was enough. Absolutely perfect casting. I think even people who might not end up liking the film could still give it up for his performance.

But now there are the two things everybody has been talking about--the look and the length. I got to see the film in a regular format. No 48 FPS or 3D. Just your average-looking film. And I must say, it looks really good as it is. Cinematography-wise, that is. Unfortunately, for some reason, Peter Jackson decided to use much more CGI in this version than guys in suits. Almost every creature is CGI in this movie, and that kind of saddens me. The Goblin King in particular looks a bit silly (and no, I dont mean David Bowie). He just overdid it on the computer graphics when he could have easily done what he did in the original trilogy. I hate that he took the easy way out and just CGI'd mostly everything. Not all of it looked bad, though, mind you. Just every now and then.

Then there's the length. It's pretty much almost an hour into the film before they even leave Bilbo's house. It feels like they're there forever. The beginning just drags for quite a bit, and I think they really could have cut down on a few things. There are also a few things in the middle that aren't exactly necessary for the current film, but are put in for the trilogy as a whole (like the Necromancer stuff). It also seems like there are 3 different climaxes to the film, and I was getting slightly antsy and wondering when or where it was gonna stop. Granted, it was really only in the last 10-15 minutes I started wondering. But it was like... things kept happening, so it gave the implication that the film was just going to keep going on.

Despite all of that, though, I really was into it for most of the movie. The pacing, like I said, only got to me at the beginning and right before the closing credits. And for a film that's almost 3 hours long, that's not too bad. The bulk of the film flows just fine. The action is good, the acting is really good, and the comedy is pretty dang entertaining. Don't go into this expecting another Lord of the Rings epic. This is still a fantasy epic, but it's much more of a children's movie than the darker, more adult themes of its predecessor. But a really good children's movie.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

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