Let me just say that it was absolutely stunning.
My friends have closed all doors on any further LOTR-related rants that may spew out of my mouth, so this post is my haven for releasing all my positive Middle-Earth-Energy (MEE). The extensive review below will contain spoilers, so avert your eyes if you haven't watched the movie.
The Hobbit began in the most beautiful way possible - before we even set eyes on Middle Earth My Dear Frodo had already began playing. It was one of the moments where one sets their palm to their chest, shuts their eyes, and breathes deeply. Best yet was seeing Elijah Wood (FRODO) strut into sight. The fact that The Hobbit essentially began exactly the way The Fellowship did, with Frodo running off to find Gandalf, was PERFECT. To be more specific, The Hobbit really began with background info on the Arkenstone (given by Bilbo), which again, is so reminiscent of the Sauron background info given at the beginning of The Fellowship. Gandalf's DMC with Biblo about sparing a life was again so reminiscent of Gandalf telling Frodo about pitying Gollum. The moment when the heavy, gold ring comes crashing down the stone steps amidst the blue (I had nearly forgotten about the ring until then), and when it slips onto Bilbo's hand just like how it did so for Frodo in Bree (KNEW THAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN) are two more links that can be directly drawn between both movies... The Hobbit needed to live up to expectations. It needed to remind the LOTR fanbase that it was still LOTR-esque, but different in its own way. This was a success for Jackson. Now the 2 Hobbit movies to come can embody more of an independent shell, now that An Unexpected Journey has set the stage.
I was quite impressed with the amount of little things Jackson managed to include, especially the dwarves' singing (That's What Bibo Baggins Hates). The dwarves are hard to dislike. Memorizing their names is still going to be an issue, but they are all visually different and noticeably so, which is great (Check out this genius piece of work, and the punny introduction: http://lotrproject.com/cheatsheet/flowchart.php). Kili, mischievous and attractive, is definitely my favorite thus far, which is very depressing as Kili, Fili and Thorin perish in the Battle of the Five Armies. Kili and Fili are so helplessly likable in the film (they bring back a Merry and Pippin feel), knowing what's to come is demotivating ...
Having Sir Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, and Christopher Lee back was brilliant. I don't think I've ever been so happy to see Saruman/Count Dooku under any circumstance. CHRISTOPHER LEE is literally 90 years old and looks exactly as he did years ago in TFOTR (The Fellowship of the Ring). It's remarkable. We can tell Cate Blanchett has aged - though radiating nonetheless (literally every scene she is in glows, and her gown weaves around her perfectly) - and McKellen, definitely, but their portrayals are not any less effective or well-done (especially McKellen). Gandalf is still Gandalf, and it was fabulous to welcome him back as a younger Mithrandir.
Taking the subject of this review back to the soundtrack, during the scene above (Gandalf and Galadriel's DMC), THE BREAKING OF THE FELLOWSHIP LITERALLY STARTED PLAYING - my heart nearly stopped, I was so sure I'd weep - that piece stands alone in LOTR soundtrack history as my absolute favorite, favorite, favorite... the hours I spent playing it on the piano... I was taken aback. Shore's reusing of it took me completely by surprise. It was effective, reminiscent, and undoubtedly beautiful.
I must once again reiterate that the movie could not have been epic without the amazing score. The company running in the mountains, the dwarves charging to Bilbo's rescue from the trolls... the Misty Mountains theme roared during all EPIC parts of the movie, vibrating with heroism, courage, and determination... I loved it. I think I've ranted about the score enough, but HOWARD SHORE needs an Oscar for this movie. He deserves it.
Speaking of Gollum, how perfectly scary was he portrayed in The Hobbit? You don't leave the LOTR-scene without getting a fair share of Sméagol-ness. Gollum was younger, twice as creepy, and the Riddles in the Dark scene was fabulously horrifying! Hats off to Andy Serkis. As usual, his dual personality disorder was portrayed brilliantly. This is a movie you must watch, my precioussss.
Let's discuss the movie's loyalty to LOTR and the book. First, there were a couple obvious changes - the introduction of Radagast and a slight change on how Gandalf saves the day in the trolls scene (which was hilarious, by any case). Perhaps some people may have preferred the provoked argument method by which Gandalf lured the trolls into dawn, but I myself was satisfied with the 'MAY DAWN TAKE YOU' then epic blinding light and crack of stone (so reminiscent of when he comes to save the day with the men of Rohan in 2 Towers). Then, there was the expansion of the storm-giants scene, the insertion of the White Council scene (which was VERY welcome, thank you Peter Jackson), and as most people are discussing, the inclusion of RADAGAST THE BROWN. As I've already discussed in my previous post, I had absolutely no problem with Radagast, and was actually mega-looking forward to seeing him. Literally all his entrance scenes, with his rabbits, were undeniably epic. He was also the one who went to fetch proof of the Necromancer's existence (AKA Sauron AKA Benedict Cumberbatch). Plus, his nursing of the hedgehog was very, very cute. So, I really haven't got issues with Radagast, although I'm aware many did (one critic scathingly wrote that he 'descended into Jar Jar Binks territory').
Stepping aside from Radagast, let's talk about Richard Armitage. I think he fit into Thorin brilliantly. He's got the look, definitely, and seems to be the 'new Aragorn' of the series, a prince trying to reclaim his throne... That ending scene where he hugs Bilbo... tears...
So, to make this an unbiased review, it seems time for me to elaborate more on what I didn't fancy so much about this movie. The High Frame Rate got to me. Everything seemed so defined and life-like that I feel as if the movie almost lost the picturesque effect of good cinematography. I had to switch my 3D glasses several times to make sure I was seeing the right things. Most reviews you read will have something to say about the HFR. While it worked quite well during action scenes, it was not so appealing at other times.
Moreover, the movie was very, very long... don't get me wrong, I had a swell time in the cinema, but it almost seems like Jackson it attempting to continue the 'long-LOTR-movies' trend, which he should consider rethinking.
Nevertheless, was this movie beautiful and brilliant? The scenery was breathtaking, the acting was well done (proud of Martin Freeman, really), the technology enhanced the battle scenes, the soundtrack left me spellbound, and the MEE was undeniable.
Masterpiece? Oh yes, I've no doubt about that.
(You'll get the reference if you've read or at least seen the blurbs of any LOTR book).