13th December 2012: The official release date for The Hobbit: AUJ worldwide. What can I say? Expectations were nigh on high for this movie, considered by many the most anticipated movie of 2012, and rightly so especially considering the crushing success of the LOTR trilogy. So, the most asked question of the year. Is The Hobbit: AUJ worth the wait (it’s been 9 long years!), and does it do justice to Tolkiendom?
Seated comfortably in my premiere class seat, with a large popcorn set in my hands, I waited, twiddling my thumbs in anticipation. Up came a trailer for World War Z starring Brad Pitt which lasted for the longest 2 minutes ever! Oh, how I felt like strangling the person next to me. This was the movie premiere for the country, and I was one of the first to watch it. Jeezus… it took forever for it to begin. [Spoiler alert!]
And when it did, it was simply magnificent. We are treated to a a little scene from FOTR’s Concerning Hobbits (featuring old Bilbo and Frodo). “My dear Frodo, you once asked me if I’d told you everything there was to know about my adventures. While I can honestly say that I have told you the truth, I may not have told you all of it.” Then we are brought into the world of the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain, and their love of mining and of gold. Thror’s rule was prosperous, and Erebor became one of the fortresses of Middle- Earth. However, the dragon Smaug came out of the north and laid waste to Erebor and adjacent Dale. There was a mass exodus of dwarves, and it is then that we see Thranduil and the Woodland Folk turning their backs on the dwarves, thus giving rise to Thorin’s hatred for the elves.
As the camera pans in and out of every detail of the mighty halls of the dwarves and its sacking by Smaug, I couldn’t help but feel nauseous. Watching the movie in 48fps and all its glory, you are presented with so much detail and beauty that you simply want to drink it all in. But when the scenes start shifting, panning, and zooming about, your brain comprehends the level of detail on the first frame, but your eyes are already perceiving the second frame and so on. I suppose this leads to some amount of brain confusion as the brain can’t catch up with all the details. Even so, we shouldn’t let this distract us from the true context and brilliance of the movie.
Then we see the sad story of how Thorin loses not only his home, but his kin in the quest to re- establish Moria as a dwarven kingdom. However, the orcs were there first, and we see Azog the albino orc for the first time. Critics were right in the sense that he really did look a little cartoonish (being 100% CGI and all), but I really did expect more of Weta whose people had really done such a fine job on all characters prior.
The Hobbit: AUJ progresses at a good pace, not too quickly, nor too slowly. And it does justice to much of character development so much so that you aren’t left wondering too much about how our heroes came to be. Fast forward to the unexpected meeting at Bag End, and you’ll come across all 13 dwarves together in the movie for the first time. It was a cheerful affair for them, and a rather confusing one for the befuddled Bilbo, who can’t for the life of him figure out who these strangers were, or whether to succumb to his Tookish (more adventurous) side. Then there was “Misty Mountains Cold”, the much vaunted testosterone- filled epic song first heard on the trailer. It does not disappoint when heard in full, and pretty much sums up what the dwarves have been through thus far. Also, there was a pretty entertaining rendition of “That’s What Bilbo Baggins Hates”.
Needless to say, Bilbo realizes that his life would not be complete without an adventure, and he bursts out his door without his handkerchief, the contract in hand, and runs on the join the dwarves and Gandalf. From there on, they encounter trolls, goblins, orcs, wargs, elves and then more goblins. Trollshaw was where the company was almost eaten by trolls, and had Bilbo’s quick thinking and Gandalf’s timely return to thank. I even kept a close eye on the troll’s positions when they were turned to rock (just like how Frodo saw them in FOTR).
Radagast makes an appearance, and we see the return of the Necromancer to Dol Guldur. The company are chased by wargs, and discreetly led by Gandalf (against the wishes of Thorin due to his profound hatred of elves) to the last Homely House of Middle- Earth: Rivendell.
The dwarves are welcomed by none other than Elrond, lord of Rivendell in full armour. It is there at Rivendell where they discover the true extent of Thorin’s map via the light of a crescent moon on a midsummer’s eve. Also, the White Council convened to discuss the growing evil spreading its darkness in the north.
The company minus Gandalf move on and in the mountains, they are caught in a battle between stone trolls, after which they escape into the ‘front porch’ of the goblins of the mountain, where they are imprisoned and brought before the Goblin King. Gandalf makes yet another timely appearance, and helps the dwarves escape. Meanwhile, Bilbo escapes, and chances upon Smeagol. The Riddles in the Dark follows, in which Andy Serkis does his thing to perfection (just give him a damn Oscar now!!), and an enchanting moment where pity stays Bilbo’s hand, and leads him on to greater things. Upon escaping the goblin mountain, the company are besieged once again by wargs and orcs. Here, Bilbo proves his true worth, and saves Thorin. The movie ends when the Eagles swoop down to bear the company to their eyeries, and they feast their eyes upon the Lonely Mountain, where their ultimate destiny awaits.
Though there were minor hiccups (namely the CGI Azog, lousy- looking CGI wargs and some virtual- looking background due to the high resolution and excessive lighting), The Hobbit: AUJ really is the most epic movie of the year. Smaug’s film teaser was rather well done as it leaves us wondering what Smaug looks like in full. Ian McKellan has really grown into his Gandalf character, and Andy Serkis has only enhanced his Smeagol- ness. Martin Freeman is a perfect fit for Bilbo, as he develops from a timid homesick character into the burglar of the company. Elrond is as grand as always (great to see him riding in in full armour), and Galadriel looks even more majestic than in FOTR. All in all, this was a very satisfying movie. It was well worth the long wait, and in the end, Peter Jackson did not fail to disappoint. I’ve already watched it in normal 2D as well as in 3D, and I found it to be a profound experience. It was not as awesome as the LOTR trilogy, but then, it was never meant to be compared against as these are 2 very different stories and concepts altogether. Here’s to next year’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.