Where This Meets That
Peter Jackson’s latest installment of Tolkien’s Middle Earth chronicles could have just as easily been called, The Hobbit: A Long, Strange Trip.
After the unqualified success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jackson and MGM set to work on an adaptation of The Hobbit. Progress was slow, however, due to various legal wranglings. Eventually, the dust seemed to settle, and The Hobbit film found some momentum with Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro. Progress was short-lived, however, as financial woes at MGM caused production delays and the project grew from one film to two, then del Toro respectfully bowed out, leaving Jackson once again at the helm.
I thought all along that The Hobbit could be an epic single film or perhaps expanded effectively into a second film. It was only weeks before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was to be released that I first heard it had blown up into a full trilogy.
The news dampened my excitement straight away. Even supplemented by the lore of Tolkien’s lesser known works, the eagerly awaited Hobbit film suddenly reeked of sour milk from the proverbial old cash cow. Nevertheless, my wife and I thought it would be a good film to enjoy with our two oldest kids over the holiday break, so we readily paid to give the cow our own little “squeeze”.
Tolkien’s The Hobbit was originally a standalone work, so he hadn’t fleshed out the full trajectory that the story would follow in The Lord of the Rings. Jackson’s The Hobbit strays from the book in that Jackson has the benefit of understanding the larger context. Therefore, the film takes the liberty of greatly expanding some elements that were only minor mentions in the book.
In the best cases, these embellishments will serve to weave The Hobbit trilogy into a larger, cohesive whole with The Lord of the Rings. In other cases, they either over-reach to rekindle some of the more captivating Lord of the Rings themes or add only bluster that could very well have been held out for the sure-to-be-forthcoming extended cut DVD release.
The good news is that, aside from being possibly a half hour overblown, The Hobbit is a solid preamble to what figures to be stronger second helping.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey score: 3.5 Falcone Rings