The first installment of Peter Jackson's long awaited follow up trilogy is finally here. And although it's not the caliber of the original, it's definitely a worthy follow-up.
The things that made the first trilogy so successful are here again. Great makeup and effects, gorgeous vistas, simplistic-yet-sweeping plot -- everything you remember is back. The movie even liberally sprinkles in cameos from the first series, with Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood, and Ian Holm back for short scenes. Peter Jackson, as a longtime fan of Tolkein, has fully grasped the value of small amounts of consistency, and has in turn, served up treats for his fanbase.
The new additions are mixed. Martin Freeman plays the kindhearted but overwhelmed Bilbo as well as could be asked for. This isn't exactly news, as we've seen this same idea from him in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the BBC version of Sherlock. Richard Armitage as Thorin is bad. Thorin's unchanging expression in inappropriately comic at times, and any subtlety in the role is completely lost in the acting. I'm not sure what Jackson expected out of an actor involved with the awful BBC adaptation of Robin Hood, but there's no significant step up here.
The reviews for this movie have mostly savaged it, which is a puzzle to me. Many complaints center around the increased framerate and unnecessary 3D. We intentionally opted for 2D, after reading the reviews, and it could be that ours was also lacking the increased frame rate that drew so many complaints. But for the remaining complaints, those that disliked the movie, or didn't like it in relation to the book, I am completely baffled. This is the same stuff that worked in Lord of the Rings, just with a much more lighthearted feel that is a well-done tone translation that follows the book. Though the decision to make this into three (Three!) movies is a bit questionable and leads to some dragging in places, this is still a pretty damn good movie. You liked it last time, so what changed now?