…The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I know what you’re thinking. Spreading one little old novel (one that was meant as a children’s book, too) into three, feature length films seems a bit much. But with acclaimed director of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson, on board, he just may pull it off.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first installment of Jackson’s new trilogy. Not only will this film be recounting the beginning of the journey of Bilbo Baggins and his merry dwarf companions (as told in Tolkien’s The Hobbit), it will also be bringing in aspects of the history of Middle Earth as found in the appendixes of The Lord of the Rings.
Jackson opens the film with old Bilbo sitting down at his desk, quill in hand. Not necessarily faithful to the opening of the novel, he narrates (from the future, to Frodo) a history of the dwarves and their beloved former kingdom and how Smaug the Terrible (big bad dragon) destroyed and took hold of the treasures they so prized. As one who has read this novel numerous times, and one who anxiously awaited the film’s release, I was surprised as to Jackson’s decision for an opening; I was not, however, displeased.
Martin Freeman (Sherlock) portrays our esteemed and bumbling protagonist, Bilbo. Insistent on embarking on no adventures whatsoever, he sits on his porch, smoking a pipe and enjoying his morning. Up walks an equally insistent wizard. At request from thirteen determined dwarves, Gandalf must find a fourteenth companion for their journey across Middle Earth to reclaim their kingdom from the dreaded dragon. But Gandalf’s selection is not to the dwarves’ or Bilbo’s fancy.
Despite his own reluctance to venture beyond the comforts of his comfortable hole in the ground, Bilbo wakes up and decides he is indeed ready for an adventure. Scrambling over fences and prancing through the woods, he catches up to the dwarves and Gandalf to proudly joins the ranks.
Bilbo, not aware of his own importance in the story, proves to be of great assistance to the dwarves as he pulls them out of dire situations. Thanks to Bilbo they escape from the hungry clutches of three monstrous trolls, and will be their key to slipping through numerous perils.
A lot of people I’ve talked to are not so fond of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Some were expecting a tale much along the lines of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and were therefore disappointed when the style changed from constant impending doom to merry dwarves that get themselves into instances of trouble. Other people—loyal fans to Tolkien’s original text—are not keen to Jackson’s use of additional events to add to the plot. It’s true, some aspects of the film—such as a super-evil giant orc tracking the party—seem superfluous to the story, but, on the other hand it ties in nicely to Jackson’s historical introduction.
When I read a novel, and that novel is then made into a movie, I try not to judge the film and filmmaker too harshly. I like to remind myself that when I read a book—get invested in characters, and have concrete images of them in my head—so, too, do others. And their imagined Bilbo surely won’t match mine.
So when attending the new rendition of a story which I am quite fond, I try not to critique based on my own unique visions, and instead enjoy experiencing another’s version. As such, Peter Jackson’s (a director for whom I hold lots of respect) depiction of The Hobbit, in my opinion, was rather successful. I’m interested to see how he’ll stretch the rest of the story into two more movies.
If you haven’t yet seen this epic journey (or have, but haven’t had your fill yet) through forests, mountains, caves, and eagle rides, and complete with thirteen dwarves with names like Fili, Kili, Oin, and Gloin, then you have work to do this weekend. I present four stars out of five.