Dec. 19, 2012 - Issue #896: New Year’s Eve - Style & Party Guide
As our small-bodied, parochial-minded, tuft-toed hero, Martin Freeman is perfectly cast as Bilbo—affable but reluctant, plucky but homesick. And much of the story has a nice domestic arc: Bilbo besieged at home by dwarves and a conscripting Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Bilbo deciding to leave his hobbit-hole's comforts for the open road, Bilbo declaring at last that he wants to help the dwarves recover their homeland, the Lonely Mountain, from the dragon Smaug. The other arc concerns the comfortably lonesome Bilbo being discomfited by exploits that embolden him and lead him to being accepted by his newfound dwarf-friends.
But an unnecessary backstory of Smaug's conquest and a torpid, name-dropping interlude amongst elves—including the nearly inert, blonde-tressed, angelic Galadriel, wasting Cate Blanchett's talent—remind us just how much the plot is, unfortunately, best at being a grog-clinking, sword-swinging tale of male camaraderie. As foes multiply, dark skies build and we press on past the two-hour mark, action sequences get more video-game-ish. Our questing group of warriors weightlessly and whizzingly rollercoast along crashing mountain-monsters, falling bridges and uprooted trees on a cliff ledge. (One sequence, involving hordes of skewered goblins, is especially suspense-less and suspend-disbelief-less.) Thankfully, the brooding, schizoid ruminations of that fishy, sneaky Gollum (Andy Serkis), playing at riddles with Bilbo, offers a kind of folk-tale gravitas. Because it's when this tale is folksy, one-on-one, droll and tenderly human that The Hobbit discovers the little moments of weight and wonder that make any good epic.
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Directed by: Peter Jackson
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