The Hobbit: A Not-So-Unexpected Success

The Hobbit: A Not-So-Unexpected Success

Phil Reidy

thehobbitPeter Jackson, the director of such box office behemoths like King Kong, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the most recent installment in his cinematic telling of J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, has departed from the isolated Shire of directorial obscurity into the world beyond, making him a household name among many-a-film-goer. The visually-stunning settings of Middle Earth, shot in his native New Zealand and King Kong‘s New York would seem all but impossible to the director of 1992’s Dead Alive, the gory zombie horror comedy that many would be surprised to know that Jackson directed. The Hobbit, however, shows that Jackson, a creative genius (and a star in the film), is more than capable of handling even the toughest directing jobs.

Bilbo’s tumultuous journey and hardship pale in comparison to the sort Jackson faced before embarking on his own journey of the directorial kind. The Lord of the Rings trilogy set a high bar for the shaggy-haired visionary, who had to meet and exceed the expectations of legions of Tolkien fans, each of them having an intimate and sacred vision of their own. With resounding prowess and talent, Jackson managed to demonstrate his ability to handle even the most rigorous and detailed of projects. The director managed to skillfully mesh together both CGI and painstaking detail into his work- spending days and even weeks on single scenes- just to perfect his vision of Middle Earth.

So it’s no surprise that Jackson was able to maintain consistency when handling The Hobbit, the prequel to the Lord of the Rings series. A massive number of characters and the need for realistic settings and props were no obstacle for Jackson, who showed once again his ability to handle even the most ambitious of projects. Jackson did, however, fall to the temptation of movie-milking, turning one book into a multi-film work. The story begins on Bilbo Baggins’ 111th birthday, the story of the old hobbit’s adventure is being written down for his nephew Frodo, the hero who would later return the One Ring to Mordor and destroy the evil lord Sauron’s last hope for smiting mankind from Middle Earth. As his written story unfolds, Bilbo is first confronted by the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf tells Bilbo that a band of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield are embarking on a journey, a journey that will require Bilbo to leave the quaint comfort of the Shire for the uncertain world beyond, for a hoard of gold being guarded by the dragon, Smaug.

A few giants, elves, and some needlessly drawn-out fights later, we finally approach the sight of the Lonely Mountain where Smaug sits atop his huge mound of gold, the last scene showing his crusty and scaled dragon eye opening, leaving us beckoning for more action. But that’s it. Sound short? Nope. Every scene is painstakingly reconstructed as if Jackson is putting every page of the book into the movie and prolonging fight scenes just to occupy time, setting us up with enough content to fill in 1/3 of the actual work and conveniently give us two more Hobbit movies. I guess we’ll just have to wait.

If that last part sounded at all bitter, it’s because it is. My only problem with this film is that it was simply too long. Like the splitting of Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into a two part film, Jackson has decided to split the Hobbit into, not two, but three films, clearly to milk this franchise as much as possible. It’s doing well in that regard (opening weekend: $238 million).

The expression on my face after realizing a fight scene just occupied 53 minutes of the movie.


Alas, embitterment with profit strategies aside, I loved it. Visually, the film nailed it: it’s warm, cozy, cold, damp, dark, and rough, all when it needs to be, once again shot in the beautiful landscape of New Zealand. The actors fill each role perfectly, with Ian Holm (old Bilbo), Ian Mckellen (Gandalf the Grey), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Christopher Lee (Saruman the White), and Hugo Weaving (Elrond), among others, reprising their roles from the original trilogy. Martin Freeman, from The Office (original British version) and Sherlock, stars as the young Bilbo. Evangeline Lilly (Lost) has also been announced to be starring as Tauriel in the second installment, sure to portray the Chief of Guards for the Elven King Thranduil with prowess. A massive cast of Hobbit characters, including Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves, and Radagast, the eccentric and constantly-smoking wizard of the wood, are portrayed by well-performing actors clearly dedicated and loyal to Jackson’s vision. Howard Shore also returns with original compositions for the film’s equally impressive orchestral soundtrack.

So if you’re feeling a bit Tookish this weekend, an adventure in Jackson’s telling of the Hobbit awaits. So head to the nearest movie theater, even if the path is dangerous, even over misty mountains cold- even through dungeons deep and caverns old. If this poorly-placed Tolkien reference doesn’t make your day (like my making it just made mine), just see this movie. Jackson’s version is visually beautiful and a solid telling of the Tolkien tale, though a bit drawn-out. Aside from being a little stretched, this well executed film will dazzle young and old alike, and is an excellent way to ring in the holidays.