Originally Posted by Greg Clark
In the book, anyway, Bilbo simply picks the ring up right before encountering Gollum and doesn't even realize it's Gollum's "precious" until he starts making overtures about using it to eat Bilbo. At this time The Ring and its more ardent power of influence was still mostly dorment; it just wanted to get away from Gollum. There's a reason it remains under Gandalf's nose for sixty years before he figures out what it is. I don't know how the film fuddles with the details, but in the novel Bilbo acquiring it was pure happenstance on his part; The Ring was hoping an orc or goblin would happen by it, something easily controlled and manipulated. He holds onto it when he realizes it turns the wearer invisible and that Gollum intends to eat him even though he won.
And that's more or less how it plays in the movie, too. There are minor differences-- Bilbo deduces the answer to the "time" riddle, instead of squeaking out "I need more time!" so meekly that Gollum only hears the last word, for example-- but other than that, it's faithful. Bilbo notices the ring out of the corner of his eye while brushing himself off following a nasty fight with a goblin and a nastier fall into the bowels of the mountain. He pockets it (natch), and he observes Gollum caving the still-kicking goblin's skull in as preparation for dinner.
Which makes the "Bilbo is an ass" read kind of off to me (and here I'm respond to Gabe more than you, Greg-- sorry!), because as much as Gollum is a pitiable creature ruined by a cruel stroke of fate and the malice of the ring, he's also a psychotic serial killer who can sneak through the dark undetected (by Bilbo at least), has a habit of really brutally murdering hobbit-sized creatures, and has a clear wish to eat Bilbo. In other words, Bilbo is at a really distinct set of disadvantages when he encounters Gollum-- he has no martial or physical skill and he's not brave, either, so he's at the mercy of this flesh-eating creature who is frankly more terrifying than any goblin or orc we run into in the rest of the film. Introduce riddles into their dynamic, though, and Bilbo has an edge.
And he presses that edge, which I think has the effect of making him look like he's arrogantly bullying this poor little twisted monster, except that this poor little twisted monster wants to and has the capability to kill Bilbo without much difficulty. Bilbo does what he has to do to keep Gollum at bay. Is he a thief? Sure, I guess, but he's not trying to get away with the ring-- he's trying to get away with his life. He tries to make off with the ring only in the sense that he keeps it in his pocket when Gollum deduces that his precious is the "what" in Bilbo's final riddle, and at that point there's really little use in Master Baggins trying to return the stolen property to his pursuer, because Gollum would just kill him anyways. (And would anyone really apply cool logic to that scenario? I know if a tweaking meth head ran after me screaming I stole his precious, I wouldn't think twice about the crummy discarded ring I found in the alleyway, I'd run like hell.)
I walked out of the whole film feeling relieved and elated. I'm quite in disagreement with early mixed reviews: The Hobbit is great. Bloat, length, excess...these are some of the characteristics that help give the Rings films body, depth, and character, and some of the details that made us fall in love with them a decade ago. Reading criticism that singles out those very elements strikes me as odd; in 2001, 2002, and 2003, I feel like we praised the Rings films for many of the same things. Granted, Rings and The Hobbit are different narratives, but I don't think the bloat of The Hobbit engorges it so much that it lands on a scale inappropriate to its narrative scope. Do I think some things could have been cut? Sure, and I think the "Extended Edition" comments are appropriate, but I also don't think that the movie is "extended" to the point of being overstuffed. As Martin points out, the first movie leaves us roughly a third of the way through the book and raises a lot of stuff from the appendices regarding the Necromancer, the Dwarf/Orc war, and the destruction of Erebor and Dale, all things that have levels of significance to the actual narrative of The Hobbit.
I should disclose the fact that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Tolkien fan and one lover of his work who thinks Jackson is a very worthy ambassador between the literary and cinematic versions of Middle Earth. You may want to take my praise well-salted, then, but I think highly enough of myself to state confidently that my bias doesn't leave me blind to reality. There are places where the movie drags slightly-- the beginning of the film in which Old Bilbo and Frodo prepare for the former's birthday, leading into the start of Fellowship, and the White Council meeting-- and, yes, the dwarves largely remain background characters while a select few (Dwalin, Balin, Bofur, Fili, Kili, and of course Thorin) actually are given personalities. Then again, in a movie that's so long, I can only imagine that bringing all of them to the forefront really would weigh the movie down, so there's that. They have stuff to do, but we only get to know a few of them. That feels right.
There's a wonderful "returning home" quality to the movie that, I suspect, impacted me because of my fondness for the material. I'm not sure that the casual fans will feel that same pull, but that beckoning familiarity exists in support of the same sense of wonder and magic that I believe drew in crowds for the Rings films in the early aughts. The world-building here is exquisite, whether we're traveling through Dwarven kingdoms, druid dwellings, goblin mines, or ruined, haunted fortresses; this time around, too, there's much more actual magic instead of "magic" as in "wonder", but that's part of what separates The Hobbit from Rings, I think. There's magic in Rings, yes, but the world as we see it there is growing darker and darker. There's less wonder in the world in Rings.
But plenty here, and I suspect that the difference in tone will throw off (and has thrown off) a number of people who are even familiar with the source material. The Hobbit is lighter, funnier, sweeter, much less dour...there are dancing dwarves and singing dwarves, and when the movie stops to drop the Great Goblin's corpse on top of the lot of them, it's not jarring as it would be in most of the Rings movies. I think there's going to be a preference battle, but I also think that's natural.
On the HFR 3D: you don't notice it after a while, especially if you're not actively trying to notice, which sounds stupid but it's true. It's really, really different, and if you've ever watched a British TV series then you're probably not going to be that thrown off by the aesthetic. In some places it looks gorgeous, in others it looks, well, like a British TV series, but in far better definition and far, far smoother. The complaints I've read about the footage looking "sped up" are apt-- Moriarity described it as being akin to watching a Benny Hill sketch, and while I get what he's saying it's really rare that it ever feels like that (and in one case, that Benny Hill vibe actually works well). Take that as you will.