It’s been years since I read The Hobbit. I considered doing so before the movie, but then realized that since the films would be stretched over three years, I might as well wait for a bit because I’ll forget the end again by the time the final installment in the trilogy came out. As a result, I couldn’t tell if scenes were actually made up in the movie or if I’d just misremembered the book so poorly.
“Was Saruman in The Hobbit?” I asked my roommate as we were leaving.
“No!” she – a rabid Hobbit/Lord of the Rings fan – replied. “No! They were just making stuff up!”
So not just me, then.
After some internet digging, it turns out that director Peter Jackson is pulling from more than simply the titular text for these films. He’s also dug down deep into the appendices of the Lord of the Rings trilogy of books. The six additions to the famed trilogy accounts for about a thousand pages full of world building and family tree making – basically the Deuteronomy and Leviticus of nerdom’s bible. And, at least according to the internet, the appendices were intended explicitly to expand the world of The Hobbit, a book that came out almost twenty years before Lord of the Rings.
Perhaps not unexpectedly, and given the fact that they are making one book into three movies, even the addition of a fuller back story does not help with the pacing of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” Many players need to be set up (try keeping all those dwarves straight) and many plots as well. First there is the main plot, reclaiming the dwarves’ homeland from the dragon Smaug (of whom we only see an eye throughout the film), a task that takes 13 dwarves, Gandalf the Grey and a very reluctant hobbit named Bilbo Baggins.
If that had been the only plot, they probably could have banged out the movie in one go, but there is a stutterstop in the middle of the film when the dwarves’ band finds themselves in Rivendell (Yay, Elrond!) and some random necromancer plot is shoved in for good measure. The necromancer is neither explained nor actually important in this film outside of giving the opportunity to introduce Radagast the Brown, whom I’ve always fancied. I assume the necromancer, whomever he is, will have a greater impact in the films to come.
That said, the cast is superb. Martin Freeman is the perfect Bilbo Baggins, portraying just the right amount of fussbudget worry and reluctant bravery. And, of course, Ian McKellen’s Gandalf is sheer perfection. The dwarves are also a delight, especially Kili and Fili and the dark and brooding Thoren who, while no Aragorn, does carry the handsome male lead quite well. And this moment is simply haunting — more than enough to get the high fantasy nerd juices aflowin’:
Prior to seeing the film, I wondered from time to time what it would have looked had the original plan gone through and Guillermo Del Toro directed, but, now, I simply cannot imagine anyone other than Peter Jackson. While the movie does run a little long (2 hours and 46 minutes – so actually shorter than my beloved extended editions of “Lord of the Rings”), I will be the first to say how nice it was to slip back into the land of Middle-earth. Accompanied by familiar orchestrations composed by Howard Shore, watching “The Hobbit” is just like coming home.
Will you be seeing The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey?