The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

During trips to visit grandparents for the Christmas holiday when I was a kids, my family would typically go out to see a movie at least one night. It gave us all something to do and I’m sure gave the adults a much-needed break from watching us kids. I was finally able to take Angela out to see a movie around Christmas this year; something I’m pretty certain she never did as a kid.

We went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey1, which of course is the first part of trilogy of films dedicated to the J.R.R. Tolkiens first novel.

So, as not to bury the lead, we both liked it. I can’t say that either of us loved the film and it didn’t have the great impact that the first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy had for me. But, it was a pretty solid adventure film and it’s hard for me to not have a fond feeling for anything based in middle earth.

The Downside

My biggest dislike of the film was generally just the overall tone. The Hobbit, or There and Back Again was a children’s book and while it certainly had all the fantasy trappings of LotR (and more: dragon!), it was notably more light-hearted. I don’t recall a sense of real danger from Golem; at least no more so than the trolls trying to eat the dwarves.

Of course, there’s simply no way that this movie could have been a child-friendly, light-hearted adventure movie. By making LotR first the tone of the world had been established and you can’t lighten it up easy. Else you get Ewoks or, God forbid, Jar-Jar Binks. And no one wants that from the dwarves of Middle Earth.

The Upside

So, in order to make a movie based on The Hobbit as epic in nature as the LotR, Peter Jackson and company had to do what works for so many movie franchises: a prequel!

Okay, so The Hobbit came before the LotR, so of course it’s a prequel, right? Well, not exactly in the sense we think of movie prequels. Hobbit was written before LotR and with a very different audience and purpose from the author. LotR was an epic myth which keyed off of a single incident in the Hobbit (the ring), which was much more of a simple fantasy adventure tale. To put it another way, if you were a school child in Middle Earth, studying the story of the Hobbit would be akin to learning about some European land feud resulting in a minor war. The events of LotR would be world-changing, like studying the and fall of the Roman empire.

Further, The Hobbit just wasn’t that long of a story. At just under 100,000 words, it’s well in the novel territory, but it’s less than a quarter of the entire LotR trilogy of books (which were really intended as a single novel, anyway). It surely could have been one heck of a single movie, and no one was that surprised when it was announced as two movies. However, three movies really seemed like a stretch. And honestly, the first film could have easily trimmed off a bit in terms of overdone action sequences.

Fortunately, it seems that much of the plot padding in the Hobbit trilogy is coming from canon sources like the appendix of The Return of the King and perhaps The Silmarillion. So there’s probably not a lot of content created here just for the film, though there is no shortage of the extended, elaborate action sequences (most of which involve orcs or goblins) that Peter Jackson loves to embellish on. However, his admiration (and that of his partners in writing & producing) for the source material is evident.

Given just how dry much of Tokein’s other writing was — there’s a damn good reason The Silmarillion or the later posthumeous works of Unfinished Tales and History of Middle Earth never became popular — some added character depth and lively adventuring from Peter Jackson et al. might be just the thing to bring them further to life. Who knows, there may well be a third trilogy in there somewhere. Of course, none are ever going to be as epic and amazing as the Lord of the Rings, including The Hobbit.

  1. In good ‘ole 2D. I’m not only a cheapskate date, I also don’t care for 3D unless it has something to add, which I didn’t think it would for this film.