Epic trilogy begins
Nov 29 2012
An Unexpected Journey, the first in the action-adventure fantasy directed, co-written and produced by Jackson, brings back Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug. Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom also reprise their roles from The Lord of the Rings. So is The Hobbit a prequel to The Lord of the Rings? Or is The Lord of the Rings a sequel to The Hobbit? Tolkien wrote The Hobbit first, then made a host of additions — now called the ‘appendices’ — as he worked out his next set of books. Jackson is adapting the expanded version of the story, which will cover the events of the book from Bilbo’s introduction to Gandalf, and his encounter with Gollum and the one ring.
The first film traces the journey of Bilbo Baggins, who finds himself swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, taken over long ago by the dragon Smaug. Approached by wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself part of a company of 13 dwarves led by legendary warrior Thorin Oakensheild. They must now journey into the wild, going past treacherous lands swarming with goblins, orcs, wargs, shapeshifters, sorcerers and giant spiders. The dwarves head towards the wastelands of Lonely Mountain, but before that they must escape the Goblin tunnels. Along the way, Bilbo meets the creature that will forever change his life — Gollum, a Stoor Hobbit named after his habit of making “a horrible swallowing noise in his throat.”
Left alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, Bilbo Baggins finds that he has unbelievable depths of courage, nerve and guile. He also finds himself in possession of Gollum’s ‘precious’ ring that has unexpected and useful qualities. This gold ring has a bearing on the fate of Middle Earth, in ways so strange and convoluted that Bilbo can’t even begin to know.
Jackson came in for a beating when he announced that “the richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins” by translating it into three movies. Reactions were mixed – fans were super kicked that they could spend lots more time in Middle Earth; critics lamented that a simple story was being stretched beyond reasonable limits. Three movies to adapt a 320-page breezy novel seemed excessive and overambitious, and indicated that the director was running on empty.
But the fact remains that Tolkien’s books have spawned a cult. Jackson has managed to recreate the epic and panoramic feel of his earlier films and fans are sure to find themselves bewitched by the new spell cast at them. Those who don’t like Tolkien’s work are sure to hate An Unexpected Journey. Which side are you on?