Well, last night's The Hobbit was a success.
Baltimore Woods might not be full of vicious wargs, but he brought his stuffed friend Leo the Lion to hug and covered his ears during the loudest and scariest parts and so did quite well.
Although the film is long it doesn't drag once you've got past the opening scenes, and the story moves right along from one bit of action to another. The party of dwarves led by Thorin is sturdy, the goblins/orcs are reliably nasty sword-fodder, and the principals acquit themselves well, notably Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Martin Freeman as Bilbo, and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield.
Well, you do it by dragging in bits and pieces from the author's other works, including the appendices of his magnum opus as well as posthumous publications such as the Silmarillion.
I was frankly baffled by the appearance of Azog the Defiler, having completely forgotten the "War of Dwarves and Orcs" from the appendix of Lord of the Rings. No matter - he was a good, frightening "bad guy".
I never "got" Galadriel from the Tolkien stories. She seemed to be a nice Elvish lady and not the wonderous creature that dazzled the other characters. Blanchett's Galadriel, though, convinces you that she really is the ancient and luminous being that Tolkien wanted to portray.
The one thing that did irk me a bit (as a writer, tho, rather than a parent) is that I don't think that Peter Jackson really has a handle on what "tone" he wants to set for this series.
Lord of the Rings is Middle Earth as drawn by Victor Hugo; stern, tragic, monumental - and Jackson got that perfectly; his flicks are ol' Prof. Tolkien's "yea, verily" language in film.
But The Hobbit is Middle Earth as drawn by A.A. Milne with a touch of Georges Feydeau; confiding, jolly, romping, and a trifle twee - a children's book written by an Oxford don in the arch style of the kid's books of his day.
They're very different.
In LOTR the forces of Evil are genuinely Evil; they're dangerous and frightening and they'll kill you if they can. And they do - several of the important Good characters are killed or badly injured through the course of the story.
In fact, that's a huge theme of Tolkien's story; that sometimes in defeating Evil you suffer the loss of the very things you're fighting for. Frodo never recovers from the burden of the One Ring and his wounds at Weathertop. While he returns to the Shire he cannot remain. Through his suffering and pain he has lost the innocence and joy of the place he loves forever.
Pretty much all the goblins in the Hobbit are comedy bad guys, the the three trolls (Bert 'Uggins? Really?) are an outright joke. They don't really scare you. And while there are deaths - several of the dwarves including Thorin are killed in the Battle of Five Armies that ends the story - the overall tone is a jolly adventure. No deep sorrows are engrained, no hopeless losses endured.
This same pattern follows with all the other character types. Hobbit dwarves owe more to Snow White than to the Kalavala or the Norse sagas; they're a more than a bit roly-poly and cheerful compared to the grim axes of the LOTR dwarves. Hobbit elves are noble and graceful but can get drunk and foolish or cruel, a far reach from the austere, elegantly noble creatures of LOTR.
Jackson tried to reproduce the kid-lit tone of The Hobbit with stuff like the slapstick Radagast bits, the trolls, and the Goblin King's banter...but I think he had a hard time pulling his head out of the Grand Epic mode. It made the film uneven, veering from goofiness to gravity and back. Hopefully he finds a more steady approach to the next installment.
Now songs and poems are all through Tolkien's works, and The Hobbit is no exception. And generally the film did a fairly good job handling the singalongs as part of the story and not a sort of musical-comedy full stop. But had Azog and Company burst into song it'd have immediately turned the whole enterprise into Bored of the Rings and, while I'd have laughed my ass - getting slightly numb after 170 minutes of movie - off, I think that might not have been Jackson's intent at all.
And when I returned to his darkened room he was unquietly asleep, his head moving and eyes darting under their closed lids, surely journeying with Bilbo and his party over the high peaks of the Misty Mountains.
I stroked his hair and spoke quiet nonsense until his movements stilled and his breathing steadied.
And kissed his head. And went to sleep.