I had a very Tolkien Christmas…and this is a wonderful thing. The main thing I asked for this year was a copy of The Hobbit — specifically a leather-bound version I’d seen at Target. My wife delivered, along with a Gandalf bookmark, a pen in the shape of his staff, some Hobbit and Lord of the Rings HeroClix, and the coup de grâce — tickets to see The Hobbit at the theater.
I should begin by saying that Tolkien is one of my favorite authors, flaws and all. I do think he can be far too long-winded at times, but the descriptive qualities he can impart via the written word brings Middle-Earth to life. I voraciously devoured The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and when I was a little older, the Book of Lost Tales and the Silmarillion. I sang along with the Rankin-Bass animated version of Fellowship ‘Frodo of the nine fingers, and the ring of doooommm…’
Despite my excitement to see The Hobbit, I was very concerned about it. Reviews were a mixed bag, to say the least. People said that it was weak, that Peter Jackson wasn’t back in the saddle as far as his directing abilities, and the film was uneven…flat.
The movie was awesome.
The first gripe I’d heard was that the prologue change added onto the film took away from the magic of the book — and I can say that yes, the change was a bit jarring. In a good way. Having the opening bridge the gap between the familiarity of the opening of the Fellowship of the Ring, as well as adding depth and intrigue to the character of Bilbo was a master stroke. The introduction felt natural, felt right…and felt like how Tolkien would have wanted it.
The movie is quite true to the book in nearly every other regard, however. While it is true that there are some liberties taken, they’re done so at the behest of the film — Dwarves personalities are shuffled around slightly to give more work to the stronger actors, Radagast is used when he doesn’t appear in the book — but these changes are done in such a way that it feels natural…it feels right.
Jackson’s masterful at adapting material at this point — so much so that I’d love to see his take on a big screen adaptation of a comic book (Hellboy comes to mind) — that it’s easy to forget that this film’s source material is a children’s book. There are dark moments, but there’s enough interspersed humor and light situations that it maintains its roots, while still seamlessly tying into the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In particular, look to the scene with the mountain trolls for a brilliant mix of humor and dark undertones — it’s a funny, yet equal parts disturbing scene.
Oh! And before I forget — the music! The score itself is what you’d expect a movie from this film family to have — broad, deep, sweeping music that captures the mood so perfectly you’re swept away. In the opening scene, when the first hits of the song ‘Concerning Hobbits’ plays, I was instantly taken to when I first watched the Fellowship of the Ring and met Frodo, Bilbo, Sam, Merry, and Pip. I had the exact same emotional response I did then — I was overwhelmed. Howard Shore had completely taken me away in my imagination to Middle-Earth, to The Shire. And don’t get me started on the magic of the songs ‘Misty Mountains’ and ‘Blunt The Knives’ — brilliant vocal pieces, and true to the book.
I won’t spoil the film — despite it being based on a 60-year-old novel — but rest assured that Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, James Nesbitt, and Elijah Wood are on their game. I loved this movie, and cannot wait for the second and third installments. Bring on Smaug!!