In 2001, Peter Jackson took on the tantalizing task of bringing to life one of the most in-depth trilogies. With grace, he put the world of “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien on the big screen. Now Jackson is once again toying with Tolkien’s work in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
Do not be fooled. This is not a film adaptation of “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” by Tolkien. It is “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first of a trilogy directed by Jackson, that may draw ideas and be loosely based on Tolkien’s book. Let me repeat, this is the first of three installments for “The Hobbit.” A trilogy for a book that’s page count (330) was less than that of any of “The Lord of the Rings” books, all of which Jackson was able to condense — quite well, might I add — into a duration of three hours.
If you ask me, the new trilogy seems more like a moneymaking ploy than a commitment to accurately depicting Tolkien’s book.
With a running time of 169 minutes , it’s no wonder why Jackson shouted poetic license when covering only six of the 19 chapters in the children’s tale. That’s right. “The Hobbit” was originally a book for children, which explains the lack of action and violence within its pages compared to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
It is the tale of a young hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who is thrown into the adventure of his lifetime. Along with a company of dwarves and a wizard named Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo travels to the Lonely Mountain to help the dwarves reclaim their gold that was stolen from them by the dragon named Smaug. It is not a complicated plot, but the film strays so far from the book that it is hard to even compare the two.
If Jackson had only stuck to the story as Tolkien had told, he may have been able to cut down the drudgingly long running time or even (dare, I say) made one film for the one book.To start, the film opens with a backstory to the plot of the film; explaining to the audience why the journey they are about to watch is happening. It is actually a prologue within a prologue, as the scene turns to reveal that this is actually a much older Bilbo narrating his tale to us. Then Frodo appears.
Wait a minute, this all looks too familiar; Frodo pestering his uncle about a birthday party to take place, then running off in hopes to meet Gandalf on his way to the Shire. Could this be a prelude to the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring? Oh how clever of you, Mr. Jackson connecting to your former films. The backstory I can forgive. It makes sense to want to share the reason for the journey, but was there a need for a flash forward? It is more of a filler than anything else.
Jackson continues to make changes throughout the film. The “Pale Orc” is constantly hunting the dwarves and Bilbo. First off, he has a name and it’s Azog the Defiler. Second, he was assumed dead and he never makes an appearance in the book. So why is he given a major role in the film?
Well, because chase scenes equal action, which audiences love, and if they weren’t being chased, we would never have had a chance to meet the delightful Radagast the Brown. Yep, Radagast, the nature-loving wizard with his sleigh-pulling rabbits, was not in the book, either.
This isn’t to say that Jackson pulled these ideas out of thin air. The characters exist within the world of “The Hobbit,” but do not actually make an appearance. He just tweaked the plot, as he had with “The Lord of the Rings” films. Except this time it was more of a twisting and turning until the film was almost entirely a new tale. This is not to say that “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is completely terrible. Cinematically, the film is brilliant. Andrew Lesnie , once again, beautifully displays Middle Earth on the screen, and it is exactly how we remember it. It’s hard not to squeal when the same scores are played when showing the Shire or the ring. Surely, the film will get some Oscar buzz for best cinematography and costume design. If you haven’t read the book and have watched “The Lord of the Ring” trilogy, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” will be an enjoyable viewing experience and give an appreciation to the lives before “The Lord of the Rings” began. For those who have read all of Tolkien’s books, the film will be disappointing and feel more like an obligation to watch the film out of love for the franchise.