SPOILERS. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE YET.
Since The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hit theatres, I’ve been reading a lot of articles, blogs and comments online about how it has nothing on The Lord of the Rings trilogy that came out a few years ago. That it’s too light, too simple, too funny and generally not befitting a series that has so far been of epic nature. And finally, there’s been much said for and against Peter Jackson and co deciding to convert a small, thin book into three movies. A lot of it is misconception that I would like to try and do my best to explain because I want to do my bit for JRR and Middle-Earth. It’s the least I can do after all the joy I continue to get from the books and that world. If at the end of this you still feel like I’m mistaken or that I’m talking through Tolkien-tinted glasses, then you’re most welcome to. I just don’t want to not have tried.
With regards to the small matter of content, it’s a gross misconception that one tiny book is being stretched over three installments (the second instalment, The Desolation of Smaug will be out in 2013 and the final, There And Back Again in 2014). As I’ve pointed out in my ‘All You Need to Know About The Hobbit Movie Lore’ article,
The trilogy narrative will not only comprise of the events in the main book but also incorporate a lot of content from the various Tolkien works and appendices to recreate the other parallel stories occurring in Middle-Earth (briefly alluded to in the book) during the main narrative of The Hobbit.
The Hobbit has always been a bit of a standalone book even within the Middle-Earth literature and this is Peter Jackson’s attempt at integrating it more cohesively with the events of The Lord of the Rings, including the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the return of darkness and evil to Middle-Earth, the changing loyalties, relationships and connections between the various races residing there, and of course the repercussions of the One Ring of Power falling into the hands of one Bilbo Baggins and his decision to spare the life of the creature Gollum.
Which brings me to my next point, The Lord of the Rings is an epic. It’s a fantasy epic written for adults and young adults where the fate of the world is at stake. On the other hand, The Hobbit was written by Tolkien for his kids, always intended to be more of an out-and-out quest adventure tale for children where the scope of the problem isn’t on an epic scale. It’s full of dragons, treasure, dwarves, battles, feasts and everything else that will delight a child’s imagination. So there is bound to be a massive difference in tone between the two in spite of the shared world, characters and narrative, and a treatment of both should reflect this.
Credit to Jackson and his team who have done exactly that. There are plenty of moments in the film that are laugh out loud funny, moments that reflect a certain childish innocence and one of the best ways you can get most out of the movie experience, is by remembering what you felt like when you were a kid reading The Hobbit or any other fantasy/adventure book for the first time. It’s the sort of mindset the content responds to the most and it’s that novel sense of wonder and magic which we felt back then that the movie so wonderfully recreates. Revel in that, treasure that because those moments are far and few in an increasingly cynical and negative world.
The movie isn’t without its flaws – many scenes could have been better edited if not cut out altogether, especially the ones with Radagast the Brown, the sequence of events that happens in front of the goblin king under the mountain, the fight preceding it etc – but a detailed review isn’t the point of this article. I’m not here to argue about the choice of adaptation or content. I’m saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the film in spite of what it didn’t do or do right. There is a time to analyse, be critical and show off the fact that you’re a Tolkien purist, and then there is the time to sit back and enjoy the vicarious pleasure of returning to a world we love, or in the case of newbies, the chance to fall in love with a world that will always delight them. The Hobbit isn’t The Lord of the Rings and I don’t think it tries to be. The film’s tag-line is very apt in discerning the main difference between them.
‘From the smallest beginnings come the greatest legends’.