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5.5.13 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Film Review, Pt 3

5.5.13  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Film Review, Pt 3

Richard Armitage as Thorin (The Hobbit, New Line Cinema, 2012)

Richard Armitage as Thorin (The Hobbit, New Line Cinema, 2012)

When you haven’t seen an old friend in a while, any period of readjustment after a long time apart depends on quality of the relationship.  If there’s deep and abiding love and mutual respect, you can simply pick up where you left off and ignore the fact that many years might have passed since you last saw each other.

Thorin & Company (The Hobbit, New Line Cinema, 2012)

Thorin & Company (The Hobbit, New Line Cinema, 2012)

That was the feeling I had when I’d gotten over my shock of the screenwriters’ decision to begin the new Hobbit film trilogy with the Fall of Erebor.  As I sat back in the movie-house seat, I still felt a bit light-headed from the flu and medication, but I was also elated by the fact that there was already an appreciated, imaginative new “twist” to a story that I knew backwards and forwards from childhood!  This film was and wasn’t going to be J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and even at eight minutes into the experience, all I knew was that I could trust Peter Jackson to take my family and me along for a wild and exciting ride.

Frodo Waits for Gandalf (Fellowship of the Ring, 2001)

Frodo Waits for Gandalf (Fellowship of the Ring, 2001)

Departure from the book: Placement of film’s story within established timeline of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy:  a short time before Gandalf arrives in The Fellowship of the Ring with wagon of fireworks & Frodo awaiting him, reading a book against a tree.

After dragon flames receded, and we left the Lonely Mountain smoldering with Smaug nestled inside, those pleasurable moments of fond familiarity and surprised encounter continued when the scene shifted back to a very familiar hobbit-hole, and a version of Bilbo Baggins that we all knew from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm)

Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm)

In a too-often fast-paced world, one of the best things about this movie is the fact that it takes its time in introducing the audience to the world of Bilbo Baggins.  We meet him first as the elder Bilbo (Ian Holm), preparing for his birthday party with help from his nephew, Frodo (Elijah Wood).  More, we got to see more “behind the scenes” actions of the preparation for Bilbo’s “eleventy first” birthday party.   You have to see it to believe it, but the characterization in this part of the movie really hit home, in the truest sense of the word.  By starting off with a connection to the LOTR film trilogy, you feel as if there’s instant continuity with the other Tolkien films, yet also something completely new.

Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood)

Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood)

Brilliant.  Besides using a narrative approach that works at all kinds of critical levels (to give just one example:  there’s a elegance in choosing this moment in time before Bilbo’s LOTR birthday party so that it parallels the famous, dwarf-filled “Unexpected Party” of The Hobbit), by 2014 Tolkien-Jackson enthusiasts will have a “seamless” viewing experience at trilogy’s completion.  We’ll be able to watch both trilogies on their own merits, of course, but I believe that this unified attention to the world of Middle Earth that Jackson so convincingly created eleven years ago will be the definitive version of both of Tolkien’s beloved works.

Bilbo & Gandalf (The Hobbit, New Line Cinema, 2012)

Bilbo & Gandalf (The Hobbit, New Line Cinema, 2012)

"Good Morning!" (Brothers Hildebrandt)

“Good Morning!” (Brothers Hildebrandt)

Alignment with the book: The faithful adaptation of Bilbo’s initial encounter with Gandalf, and “an unexpected party” with the dwarves.  My family and I loved the acting, dialogue, and setting of the initial part of the film, especially when “sixty years earlier” appears on the bottom of the screen, and suddenly you’re seeing a much younger Bilbo (played by Martin Freeman).  Freeman is so comfortable puffing on his pipe and peacefully reflecting on the beauty of Hobbiton from his front porch, that you feel just as alarmed as he is when Gandalf (Ian McKellen) appears to rock his world.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman)

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman)

Ian McKellen as Gandalf(The Hobbit, New Line Cinema, 2012)

Ian McKellen as Gandalf
(The Hobbit, New Line Cinema, 2012)

The dialogue and facial expressions between the two are priceless, and you really got a sense for the series of jolts that shock Bilbo Baggins’ “respectable hobbit” sensibilities.  That feeling continues when the dwarves start showing up and trashing his once-tidy hobbit hole.  Bilbo’s reaction to the arrival of each dwarf is one of increasing dismay, and by the time the “unexpected party” is in full swing (thanks to the 3D effects), my family was ducking along with the poor hobbit to get out of the way of tossed dishes and glasses!

An Unexpected Party (The Hobbit, New Line Cinema, 2012)

An Unexpected Party (The Hobbit, New Line Cinema, 2012)

"Far over Misty Mountains cold..." (Brothers Hildebrandt)

“Far over Misty Mountains cold…” (Brothers Hildebrandt)

There’s also a brilliant bit of writing here, as in the dinner conversation with his “guests” you get the sense of utter reluctance that Bilbo has for joining the dwarves on their quest, as well as the curiosity he starts to feel when he sees the map and key to the Lonely Mountain.  Moreover, whereas in Tolkien’s novel the dwarves essentially come tumbling in one after another to make a mess of Bilbo’s dining room and life, Jackson’s adaptation allows each of the dwarves to breathe and become recognizable characters whom you can root for, with particularly great performances by Richard Armitage (Thorin), Ken Stott (Balin), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), and Aidan Turner (Kili).

Next time:  Azog the Pale Orc, Radagast, and the White Council

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