The anxiety I felt also had, in part, to do with the fact that I have loved the former Lord of the Rings trilogy, also directed by the very same Peter Jackson. However, while the Lord of the Rings films were based on an actual trilogy, my memories of reading The Hobbit reminded me clearly that this story, a prequel to the Rings books, was a much shorter, though thoroughly fantastic read all the same.
Hollywood has stepped in and expanded this brief but lovely tale of adventure into one of its behemoth multi-sequel moneymakers. And yet, this first film is more than good. Every element that Jackson had used in making the first three Rings films exceptionally good are also present here: the intimate knowledge of the characters and their past histories, the little details that readers love and treasure, the endearing comic, folktale-like aspects, the love of nature, the sophisticated and troubling depiction of evil, the camaraderie, the magic, and above all, the adventure that lies at the heart of all of Tolkien's beloved and long read and re-read tales.
For those who only dimly remember reading The Hobbit, this film will delight you by reminding you of all you have forgotten. For those who haven't read it, maybe now, you will? As for those who read it once a year, every year, well, perhaps you'll miss some of the things you treasured, but I think you will also find a number of other things that only an extremely well-rendered film can do, that is, to imprint onto your mind visual images that will enhance and perhaps even surpass that which your imagination had previously created in your head.
As ever with Peter Jackson, the computer imagery and the action are breathtaking. The cast welcomes back veterans such Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, and briefly, Elijah Wood as Frodo and Ian Holm as the older Bilbo.
The company of dwarves who set out to re-claim their lost dwarfdom of Erebor (which is now the domain of the dragon Smaug) are too many to name here, and there are 13 in total, but they are wonderful, each with a distinct personality. Among them is Thorin, played to austere and grand effect by the undervalued Richard Armitage, and of course, there is the young Bilbo Baggins, played by the marvelous, immediately endearing Martin Freeman.
As I watched the film with increasing hope and delight, I could only think, "But, there are two more to go, what if they ruin the other two?"
Well, they might, one never knows, but this one passes the test. I am planning to see it again soon in the theatre, to delight in the things I missed this first, anxious time, and to revisit dear Middle-earth for another few hours where for a few precious moments I can keep company with Gandalf, Bilbo, and oft forgotten characters like the animal loving, madcap, but utterly entrancing wizard - Radagast the Brown.