Now I know some of you are wondering why I am watching this movie today. Well, the answer is quite simple. As some of my long time friends know, “The Lord Of The Rings” is my favorite series of books to read of all time. And even though it is a stand alone book, “The Hobbit” wound up becoming a sort of prequel to that trilogy. Anyways, whenever I read that series, I always start with “The Hobbit” first, and the same is true when I watch the movies. Today’s movie is an animated adaptation of said book so without further ado, here is The Hobbit.
The plot: While enjoying a relaxing smoke with his pipe, Bilbo Baggins, an ordinary Hobbit, is approached by Gandalf the Grey, a well known wizard, who is seeking a burglar for an adventure. Bilbo refuses at first, but before their conversation can go much further, they are joined by a group of 13 dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield. As they all have tea and supper at Bilbo’s house, Bilbo learns that the dwarves plan on going back to their ancestral home of Lonely Mountain, which was taken from them by the dragon, Smaug, and Bilbo is expected to accompany them as their thief. After signing the contract, Bilbo sets out with the dwarves but very quickly becomes disillusioned with the idea of adventure. As they make camp one night, they see three trolls nearby and Thorin orders Bilbo to steal some of the meat they are cooking. Bilbo tries sneaking up on the trolls, but ends up getting captured. When he yells out to warn the dwarves, the trolls drop Bilbo and capture the dwarves instead. As the trolls argue about how to eat the dwarves, Gandalf appears at the crack of dawn, and the sunlight turns the trolls into stone. After the dwarves are freed, Bilbo shows them the troll’s treasure hold that he found. Gandalf and Thorin each take an elven sword from the hold, while Bilbo takes a dagger (which works as a sword for him), and they decide to hide the treasure until they come back for it. As they are leaving, Gandalf gives Thorin a map of Lonely Mountain, which was given to Gandalf by Thorin’s father. Bilbo notices that the map indicates a possible hidden passage, but they are unable to see where it is. The group makes their way to Rivendell, the home of the elves, where they meet with the elven king, Elrond. After Elrond tells Thorin and Gandalf the names of their swords, he looks at the map and notices that there are moon runes on it, which can only be read on the full moon. Leaving Rivendell, the group heads into the Misty Mountains, where they are forced to take shelter from a storm in a nearby cave. During the night, Bilbo notices the cave wall open up, and goblins steal their ponies and when the dwarves and Bilbo chase after them, they are captured as well. They are taken before the Goblin King, who is enraged when he learns that Thorin carries Orcrist, the Goblin Cleaver. Before he can kill them, Gandalf appears and kills the Goblin King with his sword, Glamdring, the Foehammer. Gandalf leads everyone through the tunnels, but during the escape, Bilbo becomes separated from the others and ends up falling into a cavern containing an underground lake. When he comes too, he sees a ring lying in a puddle and picks it up, just before he is aproached by a creature called Gollum. Gollum offers to show Bilbo the way out if he beats him at Riddles, but will eat Bilbo if he loses. After they each answer several riddles, Bilbo wins when he asks himself what is in his pocket and Gollum is unable to guess what it is in 3 tries. Gollum goes to his island home to get his precious, but when he finds it missing, Gollum believes Bilbo has stolen it. Bilbo runs up the tunnel but as he trips, the ring accidentally slips onto his finger and he becomes invisible. Bilbo follows Gollum, who heads to the exit to try and capture Bilbo, and manages to make his escape. Bilbo catches up with Gandalf and the dwarves, and recounts his adventure, but as they set off, they are pursued by the goblins, riding on wargs, and end up trapped when they climb up some trees. The goblins set fire to the trees to try and capture or kill them, but Gandalf is able to summon his friend, the Lord of the eagles, who swoops down with some other eagles and carry Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves to the forest of Mirkwood, where Gandalf must leave them to go on a mission of his own. As Bilbo and the dwarves make their way through the forest, they find themselves attacked by spiders. Bilbo is able to free himself and the dwarves, then fends off the spiders while the dwarves make their escape. When Bilbo catches up to the dwarves, he finds that they have been captured by the wood elves. Bilbo follows them to the Elven palace, where the wood elves place the dwarves in their dungeon. Bilbo manages to free the dwarves, then hide them in empty wine barrels, which are floated down the river to the town of Laketown, at the foot of Lonely Mountain. After receiving a warm welcome from Bard, the captain of the guard of Laketown, they set out for the secret passage into Lonely Mountain. As they camp on the ledge where the door is supposed to be, a thrush alerts them to the setting sun shining on the keyhole, which Thorin unlocks. Bilbo is sent down the passageway by himself, though the thrush accompanies him, where he comes face to face with a sleeping Smaug. Bilbo uses his ring to turn invisible, but Smaug is still able to sense Bilbo and calls out to the thief. Bilbo tries to confuse Smaug by answering his questions with riddles, but Smaug believes Bilbo to be one of the lake-men and threatens to destory the town. When Bilbo mentions he is there for revenge, Smaug laughs and declares how strong he is, but when Bilbo suggest he is weak in the stomach, Smaug rolls over to show Bilbo. Bilbo notices a spot on Smaug’s left breast that is bare and makes his leave, but he gets cocky and takes off his ring as he taunts Smaug one last time. Smaug sends a jet of flame up the tunnel after Bilbo, singeing his backside, but the dwarves are quick to put it out when he returns to them. As they look at the cup Bilbo stole, Smaug flies out from the mountain and attacks them, forcing them to take shelter in the tunnel. Smaug then heads out to destroy Laketown, but Bilbo is able to use the thrush to get a message to Bard, telling him about Smaug’s weakness. Bard is able to use his favorite arrow to to hit Smaug in his weak point and slay the mighty dragon, sending it crashing down into the lake. At the dwarves ancestral home, the dwarves celebrate Smaug’s leaving but when they look outside, they notice two armies assembled at the base of the mountain. The army of lake-men, led by their new king Bard, and the army of the wood elves, have both arrived to seek retribution for damages done to them by the dragon, but Thorin refuses to share their treasure, and calls Bilbo a coward when he doesn’t want to fight a war. The next day, an army of dwarves appears, led by Thorin’s cousin Dain Ironfoot, and the three armies prepare to face each other when Gandalf appears in the middle of the battlefield and warns them all that the goblins are coming to attack them all. The three leaders choose to ally themselves against a common enemy and they all battle the goblins. Just when it looks like the combined armies will lose to the goblins, an army of eagles arrives to fight against the goblins, and Bilbo chooses this moment to slip on the ring in order to become invisible and hide. When the battle is over, Bilbo is brought to Thorin, and the two make ammends before Thorin dies from his injuries. Bilbo and Gandalf head back to Hobbiton, with Gandalf questioning why Bilbo only took such a small portion of his treasure back with him. Gandalf also questions Bilbo about the ring, with Bilbo deciding to keep it in a glass case on his mantle as a memento of his great adventure.
The Hobbit was met with positive reviews from the critics, earning a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While some critics questioned the attempt at making it a “family friendly” film, as well as adaptation issues, many others praised the artistic originality and the voice acting in the movie. Rankin/Bass had planned on making a sequel but that would be scrapped when United Artist released their own animated feature of The Lord Of The Rings, which was intended to be a two part series. When the second film was never made, Rankin/Bass would make their own version of The Return Of The King in 1980.
I can’t tell you how many times I saw this as a kid but it is still as fun to watch now as it was then. The voice acting was really good, particularly Orson Bean (Bilbo), John Huston (Gandalf), and Richard Boone (Smaug). The story was taken straight from the book, though there were some things changed or left out to make it fit into the given time frame. The biggest change that I was upset about was that they cut out Beorn from the movie. The animation was somewhat unique for me, in the sense that I had never seen a similar style like it at the time. And the singing. There was quite a bit of singing throughout the movie. In fact, I felt like at least 1/3 of the dialogue in the movie was just singing. While it might be a little bit dark for small children, it is a good way to introduce kids to the series.
Rating: 4 out of 5