Martin Freeman: The perfect Bilbo Baggins for "The Hobbit"?

Martin Freeman has been cast as Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming film version of "The Hobbit" and some fans are cheering.

Martin Freeman "should make a fine Bilbo Baggins" insists one "Hobbit" enthusiast.

Is relief too strong a word to use? That seems to be the emotion that some fans are expressing after hearing that Martin Freeman – best known for his portrayal of Tim in the original version of "The Office" will fill the role of Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming New Line film version of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit."

"Freeman ... should make a fine Bilbo Baggins," opined Jen Chaney in The Washington Post. "One can just imagine [Freeman] bumgling around his hobbit hole happily, perhaps planning a light mid-morning snack of a cake or two to follow a delicious breakfast, and being most disgruntled by the arrival of a company of dwarves and a wizard intent on enrolling him in a rather uncomfortable adventure," cheered Ben Child in The Guardian. "Freeman does quintessentially English ordinariness like no-one else in the business."

Whenever a book as beloved as "The Hobbit" is cast as a movie, there is always consternation among its most loyal readers. How can a movie ever fairly capture what they love most about the work? And the fact that the relatively short (140-some pages) book will be split into two movies by director Peter Jackson is already been a cause for concern among many fans.

The "Hobbit" movies are being billed as prequels to director Jackson's film trilogy of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings."

There are some readers who see "The Hobbit" as a lesser work than "The Lord of the Rings." But Child is quick to take them to task. "This is patent nonsense," he writes. "[T]he two novels are simply entirely different beasts, one a vivid but fuzzily drawn tale, the reading of which feels like a warm hearth and a mug of mulled wine, the other a thrilling yet terrifying vision of a world in which nightmarish creatures of genuine evil vie to destroy that kind of comfortable existence."

Filming of that "vivid but fuzzily drawn tale" that is "The Hobbit" will begin in February. The two "Hobbit" films are expected to be released in December 2012 and December 2013.

It had originally been reported that Freeman had had to decline an offer to play Bilbo because he was already committed to play Dr. Watson in the BBC's upcoming "Sherlock." Apparently, however, schedules were reconfigured to allow him to do both.

Other "Hobbit" cast members include Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Aidan Turner as Kíli, Rob Kazinsky as Fíli, Graham McTavish as Dwalin, John Callen as Óin, Stephen Hunter as Bombur, Mark Hadlow as Dori, and Peter Hambleton as Glóin.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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