After a fast-paced opening scene filled with low-quality explosions, Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” comes to a grinding halt. The dwarves’ home has been taken over by a dragon and now, years later, the quest to take it back happens very, very slowly.
The meat of the film starts in the home of Bilbo Baggins, the film’s friendly hobbit protagonist. Martin Freeman’s accents his representation of the character with subtle tics, like hand wringing and nervous glances, which beautifully portray the character’s shyness and discomfort in the face of an adventure.
The character does not offer much depth, although this can be blamed on J.R.R. Tolkien as much as on Jackson. Baggins agrees to join in the adventure only after Gandalf boosts his ego for what seems like hours, until our hobbit finally feels he might be ready for more tangible excitement than what he can read in a book. He sprints off to join the group.
This is the fastest action that happens for the next third of the movie. Baggins and the dwarves slowly begin to battle the roadblocks between themselves and home.
Or rather, they battle myriad bands of identical beige monsters. Are they trolls? Orcs? Goblins? Are these species interchangeable? The jury is still out.
The graphics that supplement these confrontations leave something to be desired. Most of the cityscapes and action sequences look like they were designed in the early 2000s.
The one exception happens at the turning point of the movie, when Baggins discovers he possesses a sort of medieval lightsaber that leads the group into an underground lair.
It’s aesthetically part Tim Burton, part Hayao Miyazaki. Ominous, bulbous creatures shuffle around on dimly lit ledges connected by ziplines. The wide shots offer dizzying views of the cavern while close ups reveal artistic detail.
The scuffles that happen afterward come in rapid-fire succession. It’s hard to keep track of who is fighting who and why. Finally the adventurers spy their homeland in the distance. But they do not make it there at the end of the film.
No, no—they aren’t deterred by danger. They simply do not make it there. Jackson plans to stretch out the rest of the story into two additional films. If he succeeds, it will be as improbable as a band of dwarves defeating dangers far larger than themselves and reclaiming their castle.