When I heard that director Peter Jackson was going to direct the prequel to the Lord of the Rings saga, I was originally psyched, but when I learned that the studio was going to split Bilbo Baggin’s adventure into three parts, I got worried. How was Jackson going to pull off stretching the story into another trilogy when The Hobbit was shorter than even the first chapter of LOTR novel? As it turned out, I had nothing to fear.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey tackles the beginning of Bilbo Baggin’s adventure, when he was called upon by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to join a band of dwarves who want to reclaim their home, the Kingdom of Erebor, which was forcefully taken from them by the dragon Smaug. After years of struggle, the dwarf prince Thorin Oakenshield and his group of 13 (12 dwarves, 1 wizard and 1 hobbit) journey to the Lonely Mountain in an attempt to enter their old castle and defeat the dragon. But first, they must face menacing enemies like orcs, goblins and trolls. In the center of all of this is Bilbo, a hobbit who is who is unused to the ways of the warriors, as tries his best to find the courage to help the dwarves in their quest, even as he discovers — and becomes the owner of the One Ring that spawned the future adventures of the Fellowship of the Ring.
The main thing that was different when I went to see The Hobbit than when I first saw the LOTR trilogy was that I did not read the book beforehand, so what I knew of the story was limited to what I knew of Bilbo from the LOTR movies. In a way, this was a good thing as I had no basis in which to compare the execution, which was in no way, inferior.
Bringing back Peter Jackson to direct the next LOTR trilogy was a brilliant move on the part of the New Line Cinema and MGM, because no one knows Middle Earth like Jackson does, much in the same way that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss stakes claim to the realm of Westeros in Game of Thrones. As such, Jackson is able to direct freely and depict Bilbo’s adventure with a sense of familiarity as well as newness that audiences will appreciate.
The casting was also spot on as Richard Armitage (Strike Force) who played the role of Thorin was able to deliver an outstanding performance as a compassionate and brave leader of his people. Audiences will be able to identify with his character for sure, even when he shows his stubborness and pride because his backstory was properly fleshed out as the movie progressed. As for the part of Bilbo, I was actually quite glad that they chose a lesser known actor to take on the part of Frodo’s uncle, in the person of Martin Freeman (Sherlock) because he was able to convey the character’s lack of guile, as well as quick wit, which most of the time, saved the day for the dwarves.
The cinematography and the scoring were also epic, especially when the dwarves broke into their gaelic hymn. Each element of the movie just seemed to complement each other so well that time just seemed to fly by, with the ending leaving the audiences — myself included– wanting more, so much that it actually compelled me to get the book so I find out what happens to Thorin and the gang immediately.
What I loved about The Hobbit most of all, was that the adventure was tinged, always with humor. Even in the direst of circumstance, there was always something to lighten the mood. In the LOTR franchise from Fellowship of the Ring until Return of the King, while there were moments of mirth, the tone was more serious, owing maybe to the fact that their quest was more dangerous. With The Hobbit, there was a sense of gradual unfolding — perhaps because filmmakers had the luxury of time to flesh out the story because there are two more movies to go. But this helped set the tone for the rest of the franchise. And the sense of continuity with the familiar characters popping up to say hi? Awesome. Oh, and did I mention Lee Pace also had a role in this movie as Thandruil the Elvenking? He didn’t have any dialogue though, but he’s in the next two so I have high hopes for Ned the Piemaker (Pushing Daisies).
All in all, I thought The Hobbit was off to a great start. If the next two do not falter and deliver at the same level of the four movies already released, this may match the success of Star Wars, quality wise. I’m excited to see The Hobbit’s next adventures. I do so love Gimli’s forefathers.