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Slow start, strong finish.

As a fan of the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy I was counting down the days to the release of the The Hobbit to take another look into the beloved fantasy world created by author J.K.K Tolkein.

As the first installment into Peter Jackson's Middle Earth three-part movies I was expecting absolute brilliance. However, I was left more than a little disappointed ... an unexpected journey it was.

I was completely let down by the fact that it took a long hour-and-a-half of yawning before the real magic happened on-screen.

Making three movies out of one book, obviously milking the franchise for the cash cow of a title, made it long, boring and filled with unnecessary scenes. I'm almost frustrated that Jackson returned as director when Guillermo del Toro left the project, as he transformed what was supposed to be a two-part adaptation of the novel into a desperate second attempt for box office earnings.

Even though it was a brutal sacrifice of a quality story, the fight scenes were still incredible, the scenery was breath-taking and a number of the characters, including awesome cameos, put a smile on my face throughout.

As a faithful fan of LOTR, I am confident that Jackson will create another fascinating adventure in the coming movies.

Starting with two long prologues to the story, the prequel finally kicks in when the audience is introduced to a young Bilbo Baggins (Freeman). Baggins enjoys his safe nights in by the fireplace and his dinner-for-one. However, all that changes when Gandalf the Grey (McKellen) pays him a visit.

The wizard, invites Baggins on an adventure to help 13 dwarves retake what rightfully belongs to them, The Lonely Mountain. After a gruesome battle, a dragon known as Smaug guards their homeland from anyone who attempts to enter the castle of gold.

At first Baggins, labelled as the 'burglar' due to his speed and discreetness, refuses to help but when a band of Snow White-esque singing dwarves knock at his door, eat all his food and damage his hobbit hole, he can't resist the challenge.

Leader of the group and heir to the The Lonely Mountain, Thorin (Armitage), accepts the hobbit and together the group encounter more than their fair share of challenges including trolls, orcs and massive wolves.

Freeman provides a good balance of humour and bravery in his performance as Baggins and comes off as likeable and genuinely entertaining.

The way his lines are delivered and timed all added to his character's wittiness and provided light hearted scenes where needed, with the help of one of two characters that portrayed the dim-witted companions, of course.

The singing dwarves provided a great balance of fun, hard-as-nails warriors. But, many may argue that their prosthetics, including Baggins and his hobbit feet, looked cheap, fake and with the blend of CGI, made the movie seem more like a child's fairy-tale than a fanatical journey.

The whole tone of the movie was lighter than the LOTR trilogy, but Jackson still provided quiet scenes that provide the most weight in the story.

I was left whispering 'yes, yes, yes' alongside the iconic character of Gollum in one of the best scenes in the film. It's always good to see Andy Serkis work his magical enchantment into the character, even if it does take a good two hours for it to come. In a fateful game of riddles between Baggins and Gollum, the darkness of the franchise finally came to light.

Although the movie could easily have been shortened to, well, one hour, the cameos from McKellen, Serkis and the new addition of Freeman definitely made it a must-watch.

It was technically daring and gives a feeling of familiarity, which is what most of the viewers will be hoping for.

I was disappointed but I'm almost sure the second film will take a better turn.

*Showing in Cineco, Seef II, Seef I, Sr Cineplex, Al Jazeera Cineplex, Dana Cinema

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Dec 19, 2012
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