The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

“Home is now behind you. The world is ahead.” – Gandalf

The problem with sequels and prequels is all the hype hung on them by their predecessors. Often we leave the theater wishing what we’d just ponied up $10 for was half as entertaining as the original.

(This movie fan has shunned Star Wars I,II and III, and will not acknowledge the existence of any Matrix movie other than the first.)

Since I dragged my wife to a midnight screening of The Hobbit and stayed up until nearly 4 a.m., I am relieved to say this movie does not disappoint. Far from it.

  • The Hobbit is very suspenseful, and gets much darker than the first L.O.T.R. I’ll categorize this as a plus, since tension marries drama to the characters, and characters to the audience.
  • The comic relief is not only well-timed, but used, as much as the suspense, to reveal each of the main characters’ dispositions.
  • The movie is beautifully choreographed and the cinematography amazing. Add to this the top-notch C.G., and you’re in for something that out-does its predecessor in visual effects.

Having lived as nomads since the dragon Smaug broke down the gates of Erebor and took the dwarf kingdom for its gold, 13 dwarves are looking to take back what is rightfully theirs. Unfortunately for Bilbo, that means taking him along…after treating themselves to a feast at his house.

Their arrival is the catalyst of Bilbo’s unexpected journey, one that is as unwelcome as the moral problem it brings along with it: choosing between returning to his own home, and helping the dwarves take back theirs.

The uninvited diner guests are outlandish and charming; and the characters throughout run the gamut from a formidable and proud Dwarf warrior to a cooky old wizard with bird droppings for sideburns. As rich as they are, the characters are rivaled by the landscapes of New Zealand and the set design from computer effects to costumes and makeup.

Bilbo finds himself thrown into the company of brutes on a deadly adventure, as outlined in the dwarf warrior contract (right). But what life is there without adventures … or a home to return to?

Even though it has a slow beginning, the first installment covers lots of ground. There’s plenty of action and tension, and we get a very chilling look into the world of Orks. We hear them speak in their native tongue, and are introduced, much as Bilbo, into the world outside the Shire.

The aptly named Unexpected Journey lives up to its hype, and is well worth the full ticket price. Without knowing how well it keeps to the original book, or wanting to give away any surprises, I will say that the movie did draw me in, as if I stepped inside the pages of the story itself.

First of all, the movie has its roots deep in a well-developed story. I always look first to the screenplay for quality entertainment because whether a movie or play, a speech or a book, if it’s written well, disbelief is readily suspended.
I’ll even pay ludicrous amounts for popcorn that hardens my arteries.

While I’m no fan of fantasy stories, The Hobbit was so well crafted it takes little even for critics of the genre to escape into this journey, because it taps into the wonderment we all remember from our favorite childhood stories.

And, the unexpected journey is one we all understand.

The beginning of the story finds a Bilbo Bagins that has forsaken his childhood love of adventure to the adult life of quiet and dull comfort, where new experiences are tantamount to mischief. Even the Shire is like a retirement community, where the real world’s “otherness” is carefully ignored inside the borders of its green hills.

What I love about this story most of all is that Bilbo’s decision to break free of the controlled life is not due only to his awakened desire for adventure, but even more so to altruism.

There’s little in the way of allegory here. Still, the movie hinges on a theme that goes beyond the world of the story. Even though the problem with this movie is a huge cast of characters that have almost no time to develop on screen, except for Thorin and Bilbo, it is their fellowship, if you will, that draws me in.

There’s another quality of The Hobbit I find irresistible. Heart is something this movie lover always looks for in a story, and it’s certainly found here.


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