We live in the rural Philippines, so the nearest IMax and 3 D movie theatres are a 2-3 hour drive to Manila. But for the past 5 years we have a theatre, and the Hobbit is playing. Not the super duper 3D fast film one, but the ordinary one.

So the film has to stand on it’s story telling merits, and it works.

Bilbo starts by telling the story of the Dwarves kingdom and the attack of the dragon, who is lured by the hoarding of gold to his nephew Frodo.

We then go on to see a slightly bewildered Bilbo who is startled by Gandalf and a bunch of Dwarves arriving at suppertime, and he is literally too polite to throw the dwarves out even though they are eating him out of house and home.

Bilbo’s life is settled, but when he wakes up in the morning and finds everyone gone, he realizes that despite his protests the night before he really did want to go on an adventure, and so he runs out to join them, (without his pocket handkerchief).

The movie then meets the trolls, the capture by the goblins in the mountains, and the meeting of Thorin Oakenshield and his nemesis, Azog, the white goblin who killed his father.

I guess Jackson got tired of people pointing out the Uruk Hai were black and saying “racism” (even though the goblins of Moria were tan and green) so Azog is huge, pale and resembles an overgrown white Na’vi. Jackson fills in the backstory by having Balin tell Bilbo of the battle outside Moria, where Azog killed Thorin’s father and Thorin used an oak branch as a shield.

In Rivendale, there are hints about trouble, but like the subplot with Radagast, there are few details, which make one think these will be shown in the next two installments.

Once the group leave Rivendale and enter the mountains, they are captured by the Great Goblin, a nasty looking but humorous monster.

The episode in goblin town is so fast and full of cinema tricks that it is hard to follow. Someone compared this part of the film to the Goonies, with it’s slides and falling debris, and indeed it does look more like fantasy than realistic, but that is just filler for the more important part of the story: How Bilbo found Gollum’s ring, played the riddle game, and ultimately decides not to kill Gollum while escaping.

Summary: Lots of fast action for the teens. A story for the kids, and close enough to the book and Tolkien backstories so the Tolkien experts are not upset.I enjoyed it, as did my eleven year old granddaughter.

Younger kids might be upset at the gore and get nightmares from the ugly goblins. The action scenes are fast enough not to be too upsetting, and the climax, where Bilbo turns hero, is indeed the most heartening part of the movie.

So should you see it? Yes, if you enjoy action/adventure and fantasy movies. It is not a tragic epic, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There is more humor, and only hints of world peril. The dwarves are funny and valiant and stubborn. Bilbo is awkward, and humble, and indeed grows in his character.

Just going for the beauty of the landscapes would be worth it: a 3 hour tourism advertisement for New Zealand.

I give it a nine out of ten (ten out of ten if you edited Goblintown to be shorter).

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines

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