My Precious! It has been a long and grueling 9 years since we last visited Middle Earth on the big screen. Over that time other directors picked (GASP!), and other bigger, flashier, franchises established while Middle Earth expectations just kept escalating. The whispers started as soon as the Hobbit idea leaked, can Peter Jackson do it again? Will he have what it takes? Can The Hobbit match LOTR? As The Shire came on the screen, in all its vibrant greens and blues and the theme song started, these questions swirled in my head.
Not to get caught up in the questions though, I stopped thinking and starting actually watching the movie. I was curious to see how the LOTR actors whose characters aren't in The Hobbit would be integrated. Frodo had a few scenes, done in a way that didn't take away from the original Hobbit story. It was like the LOTR Films passing the baton to the next generation, which is a bit odd since The Hobbit is the prequel to LOTR. It also occurred to me that I don't actually recall the Hobbit story, having read it now over 15 years ago. As to how accurate the movie was to the book, I can't state with authority. The changes that were made weren't Jar Jarring, if you catch my drift. Also any story changes that allow Sylvester McCoy to be in your movie are good moves in this Doctor Who Fan's books.
The film adaptation was a concern for me going in to the movie, knowing that this journey was shorter (physically) and only one book. How were three movies going to be squeezed out of one book? The brilliance of the LOTR movies was that the screen writers knew what to edit from the books to keep a movie audience interested. The Hobbit was going to require the opposite, adding scenes to the original story. I didn't
feel the movie suffered for this, but I can see some complaining about the length of the movie. However, this is Middle Earth, there will be sweeping tableaus of New Zealand and instrumental music cuing the entrance of Gollum and The Ring that by law require 3 hours. Those expecting a shorter movie should check their DVDs, the LOTR movies were of the same length, and while one can argue the LOTR content was greater, three hours of any movie is three hours. As for the amazing scenes of the plains, rolling hills, and mountains of New Zealand? I want to go to there. New Zealand couldn't have asked for a better travel ad than This Movie.
The Hobbit is a shorter journey than LOTR, which was like assembling the UN to defend against the greatest evil ever seen, Sauron. And Smaug the Dragon is no Sauron. The Hobbit has good versus evil themes, but the first installment focused on the Dwarves reclaiming their home from Smaug. Gandalf believes in their cause, which goes a long way for the Dwarves in accomplishing their objective. Gandalf recruits one confused Hobbit, and poor Bilbo suffers the fate of many other trail blazers; the indignity of name calling, the cynics, and his own self doubt. Bilbo weighs the comfort of the Shire, with his second breakfasts, stuffed larders, and warm fire in a dry hole with a cause that literally shows up at his door uninvited. How many amongst us would accept the challenge, to give up that security and help those less fortunate? The Gandalf quote "I find it is the small things ... that keep evil at bay" is Middle Earth speak for "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing".
And on that fateful day, Bilbo Baggins wasn't going to do nothing. He was going on an adventure, to see a man about a dragon. The focus of the Hobbit is on one Hobbit, who must struggle to find common ground with Dwarves and interact with Wizards and Elves. Frodo had Samwise and Merry had Pippen along for their LOTR journey, Bilbo had no one. And LOTR had many different journeys, besides that of the Hobbits there is the journey Aragon took, Legolas and the other Elves, and the Men of Rohan and Gondor. All those characters we got to know over the course of the movies, to share in their triumphs and despairs. The dwarves of the Hobbit are not so developed characters (can you name all 13?) but that is not the fault of Peter Jackson, that is simply the function of the story.
Without Bilbo there is no Frodo. Indeed, without The Hobbit there is no ring. So don't penalize The Hobbit because it lacks the scope of LOTR, it sets up a Middle Earth that will be further developed and explored in LOTR. Is Peter Jackson back? You bethca, and I for one look forward to knowing the Dwarves, Smaug, and Bilbo better in future movies.