I finally got to see The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey and I’m glad to say it was as brilliant as I had expected it to be. There are still two more films to go, but I think it’s safe to say that Peter Jackson and his team have once again succeeded in creating something that should rake in at least as many awards as The Lord Of the Rings.
Now for those who haven’t read Tolkien’s books yet, why on earth not? But seriously, if your only experience of Middle Earth has been the LOTR films, you have to realise something right off the bat going in to see The Hobbit: Bilbo’s tale is not the same a Frodo’s. In The Lord Of The Rings, Frodo Baggins is the reluctant hero summoned on a quest that will determine the future of all races in Middle Earth. The Fellowship embarks on a journey, knowing that at the end they’ll confront evil itself and probably not survive. It is an epic fantasy on which all future fantasy novels were modelled. In the novels Tolkien managed to create a world with its own history, mythology, legends, and even languages, a world that Peter Jackson managed to capture beautifully with his first trilogy.
The Hobbit, on the other hand, was written much earlier in Tolkien’s life and was intended as a children’s fairytale. It is a story about a Hobbit who lives in a hole in the ground who is convinced to go on an adventure to liberate some gold from a dragon. Bilbo joins the treasure hunt with almost child-like enthusiasm (after some hesitation, of course), completely unaware of the perils he will encounter along the way. While there is a hint of the evil that will engulf Middle Earth within a few decades, it by no means dominate the story – the only ones that will suffer if the adventurers fail in their quest are themselves.
Naturally, this means the new trilogy will also be different from the first. I think Peter Jackson pulled this off beautifully. The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey takes a while to gain momentum – the world is not in peril, after all. This does, however, give opportunity for very good characterisation of Bilbo and some of the dwarfs. Martin Freeman is excellent in the role of Bilbo Baggins (I never realised just how similar Mr Baggins is to Dentarthurdent until today) and Richard Armitage, in the role of Thorin Oakenshield, is the grim warrior this time round. Sir Ian McKellan is again the mellow old Gandalf the Grey from the first LOTR film and Andy Serkis is even better as Gollum this time around, dual personality and all.
Between the sweeping panoramas and a beautiful score by Howard Shore, this time including some of Tolkien’s original poems and songs from the book, the film is a feast for eyes and ears. The battle scenes are excellent if a bit short and the battle in the goblin cave was very reminiscent of the Moria scene from LOTR. I can only look forward to what Mr Jackson is going to do with the battles of Dale and Erebor.
The Hobbit is of course much shorter than even one of the books from The Lord of the Rings. Jackson’s choice to make three films from this one book while for LOTR he made three films from three books has received some criticism from some. However, for LOTR he had to leave large chunks of the story out of the movies. In The Hobbit he makes up for this by including almost every detail from the book, even using the same wording as the book in some cases. Certain characters, like Radagast the Brown, that are only mentioned in passing in the book, also get entire scenes to themselves, adding a whole new dimension to the story.
The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey is most definitely worth seeing, even if you’re not a Tolkien-fan. However, even though The Hobbit was originally written as a children’s tale, the movie has a few very violent scenes which are not suitable for small children, so please respect any ratings it might have in your area. For my part, a year is much too long to wait for the next instalment.