The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I finally watched my expanded edition of the first Hobbit flick the other day. I got it for Christmas, but it can be exceedingly difficult to find time to watch a three-hour movie if you’re me. And I haven’t seen the second one yet; movie theaters and I don’t get along (it’s not you, theaters, it’s me).

Just a bit of background: I’ve studied Tolkien. I had the privilege of taking a course on his writings in graduate school. I’ve read all of the “unpublished” works. The Hobbit was one of the first true novels that I ever read (I was the only kid who had read it before when it was assigned in a 7th grade course). And I’m not saying this to prove that I know better than anyone. But I know the background stuff that Peter Jackson is pulling from to make this story three movies long. And it took fourteen books to get it all together in a way that made any kind of sense.

And for me, that’s the weird part of the whole thing. Jackson is trying to turn The Hobbit into a Lord of the Rings style epic tale. And it’s really not. It was a story that Professor Tolkien pieced together in his head from bits and pieces of things he’d made up to try to get his kids to sleep. It was a story about a bunch of bumbling guys who wanted to get their home back, and the uptight little dude they drafted along the way. While he was writing it, it turned into a story about how little things can have big impacts in the world. Fate took over, both in the story and in the writing.

So once we get over the fact that the story Jackson is telling is one that Tolkien didn’t impose on it until after The Lord of the Rings had been drafted, it’s not really that big a deal. We’ve seen what Jackson can do with a story like that, so we can be pretty sure that it will be an exciting movie. And I think it is, or at least the first part of it. It’s got enough chase scenes and fight scenes that it keeps moving pretty well, and Gollum is more than enough to carry the “boring” scene.

I do think that Jackson has taken some liberties in this story. But to be honest, to make a good movie he really had to take most of those liberties. The movie had to move away from the kind of story that an English professor would tell his children at bedtime. It needed a liberal dose of the epic goings-on that didn’t get told until the appendices of LOTR. (I’m not sure it really needed Radagast the Brown, but since we got cheated out of Tom Bombadil in LOTR, whatever. Radagast may actually be more Bombadil than Radagast, but I digress.) And he had to make the dwarves a little less bumbling than they were in the book. Otherwise this thing would just be painful to watch.

I see Jackson trying to share the bigger picture with those who probably won’t take the time to piece the story together themselves. And I can appreciate it in that light. It’s not going to be exactly like the book, and knowing that, I can prepare myself to enjoy it for what it is – a large-scale fantasy adventure movie.

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