Tolkien’s Middle Earth surrounds one’s senses as Peter Jackson’s rendition of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” begins. In masterful, though at first sluggish, opening sequences we are introduced to all those familiar faces from the “Lord of the Ring” Trilogy, the last of which won the Oscar for Best Picture. Elijah Wood makes a brief appearance as Frodo. One wishes that he would somehow be involved in the adventure which was about to unfold. However, The Hobbit is really a Prequel to Tolkien’s other stories and so an elderly Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) who is now set in his ways reflects back on the Unexpected Adventure of his youth.
Then enters the young Bilbo; played by Martin Freeman in that innocent and charming manner which endears him to the audience. Bilbo finds himself summoned by the Wizard Gandalf (portrayed by Ian McKellen in the deep throated magical voice and magical mannerisms which enables you to be a believer in the world of Middle Earth). Those who have been privileged to have to have viewed Jackson’s trilogy were soon caught up in the familiar characters. Though my grandsons, whom I brought to the film and who were infants and toddlers when those original films were released, were soon giggling at the antics of the Dwarves in the humorous sequences in which a flustered Bilbo Baggins is introduced to them around his own dining table.
After initially refusing to join the quest to retake the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the Dragon Smaug who had conquered it, he suddenly finds himself excited to join them on an adventure which stretches his middle earth view of his world. Scurrying along the path from his earth domed house and garden he announces that he is on an adventure as the legal document committing him to the quest flows like a flag waving in a breeze from his hand while his oversized bare feet scamper along the path to unknown danger.
This tale is also a story of friendship, respect and the least amongst us becoming a hero, i.e: A Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Thorin the Prince Dwarf who seeks to be king and reclaim his fallen kingdom is played by Richard Armitage. This sub plot which changes his heart and view of the innocent and loving ways of Hobbits delivers an important message to the new viewers of this movie like my grandsons. And so Thorin is skeptical of having a Hobbit aiding his little band of Dwarves who seek to confront the Dragon Smaug who also killed his grandfather the King of the Dwarves while destroying his homeland. This arrogant Prince has a lot to learn particularly when he faces another group of beings whom he dislikes, that of the Elves. Cate Blanchett returns as Galadriel that mystical queen like figure as does Orlando Bloom as Legalos whom Thorin hates. None the less the Dwarves and Elves must become allies with Gandalf and of all people Bilbo Baggins as the glue who would hold them together. And so this story of the least likely being actually becoming the hero as the Dwarves and Elves must face the horrible Orcs on their way to the Mountain Kingdom, begins.
In a magnificent blend of humor, action and bonding moments, Peter Jackson brings to the big screen an epic portrayal of Tolkien’s classic tale of good, evil, friendship and magic.
The special effects and fight sequences had my grandsons stirring in their theater seats and sharing in lowly voiced tones their concern while cheering on Baggins, the Dwarves and the Wizard called Gandalf.
In the age of digital media, hand held notepads which bring movies into one’s hands, it’s easy to raise a question which I read recently in an entertainment newspaper. That question asked if there was a future for movies as we know them. My answer to that query is that so long as we have films like The Hobbit filled with special effects and wondrous innovative scenes of sound and image absorbing one into the action on the big screen then we shall indeed have movies in theaters. There a community of viewers shall always be bound in their common ground of emotional involvement with plot and characters. There this community shall relish the wonders of cinematic excellence as seen not only in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit, but also in such recent releases as Lincoln and Skyfall. The world needs to have history and legendary tales brought to life in a setting bigger than life itself. We need to have “007” and heroes like “The Lone Ranger” and musical tales like “Les Miserables” brought to a new generation of movie lovers.
And for that gift to the motion picture audience “The Hobbit” receives a grade of “A” for excellence in movie making.