Animadversion: There and back again
Middle Earth, the imaginary world created by J.R.R. Tolkien is revisited in The Hobbit — An Unexpected Journey, a prequel to The Lord of the Ring trilogy. It’s a given that the scenery would look the same and there would be faces one recognises. But familiarity doesn’t end there. An Unexpected Journey also has a grand adventure, as perilous and life-changing as anything from the trilogy.
An Unexpected Journey starts with young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) being pulled into an adventure along with 13 dwarves by Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen). The quest is a brave and noble one. The dwarves are going back to free their far-away home Lonely Mountain, from the dragon Smaug.
Smaug likes shiny things and the mountain has an abundant amount of dwarf gold, so tackling him is going to be a pickle.
Thorin (Richard Armitage) the leader and the king of Lonely Mountain (with an Aragon-like aura) doesn’t fancy taking a hobbit on the quest. With his family destroyed by Smaug, and another separate beef with Azog, an Orc chief who had beheaded his grandfather, Thorin feels the quest is no place for a hobbit accustomed to easy living.
Peter Jackson with co-writers Fran Walsh Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro (who was once inline to direct) have devotedly made the distinction clear. In making An Unexpected Journey over two-and-a-half-hours-long, they have given respectable time to action, humour and even songs that are sung in timbre voices. Even coming face to face with man-eating trolls isn’t as serious as it would have been.
This is the first of the planned trilogy (based on just one book). There’s intelligently-crafted appearances from alumni’s Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Saruman (Christopher Lee) and even cameos from Frodo (Elijah Wood) and older Bilbo (Ian Holm), making The Hobbit’s bond to the Ring trilogy even stronger.
An Unexpected Journey’s best, however, belongs to the returning “precious”-cooing Gollum and his game of riddles with Bilbo; this is one of those many moments that contest speculation that Jackson doesn’t have many stories to tell about Middle Earth.
Released by Warner Bros, MGM and Newline Cinema, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is rated PG-13.