"An Epic Journey"
Part One of THE HOBBIT, AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, continues the filmmaking epic storytelling that Peter Jackson initiated with J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. It’s larger than life and larger than the book. Still, at the heart of THE HOBBIT are some important moral points, and the fact that it’s a story about reclaiming the homeland, which is an archetypal paradise lost quest.
The movie opens on two notes. In one, Gandalf appears to Bilbo and says he’s going to take him on an unexpected journey, an adventure. The other shows the magnificent underground civilization of the dwarves. King Thror became so attached to his gold that his diseased and myopic greed for gold summoned the great dragon, Smaug. Smaug expelled the dwarves and took over Erebor, their kingdom under the Lonely Mountain. The dwarves tried to reclaim their former homeland, Erebor, only to have to fight the orcs. This resulted in King Thror’s death and his son, Thrain’s, disappearance. This left the grandson, Thorin Oakenshield, as the king of the remaining band of dwarves. Under his leadership, the dwarves became nomads.
Soon after Gandalf comes to Bilbo, 13 dwarves show up, a biblical number. Gandalf urges them to recruit Bilbo to go on an unexpected journey to reclaim the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo is a reluctant adventurer, but along the way, he manifests loyalty, honor and courage. He saves the dwarves from the trolls and the orcs. He recovers the ring from Gollum, and they fight off hordes of goblins. Will they fulfill the prophecy in time to reclaim Erebor?
The basic structure of THE HOBBIT reflects the story in Tolkien’s famous and beloved novel. The novel was written for children and is lighter and more golden hued, so to speak, than THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. Taking his cue from Tolkien’s lifelong preoccupation with Middle Earth, Director Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh expand the story and make it darker, incorporating some of the LORD OF THE RINGS. So now, the story is being turned into three movies.
The first movie, subtitled AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, is an epic movie with magnificent sets and wondrous vistas. That said, many of the battles go on too long, some of the journey seems repetitious, and some of the violence is too intense. Thus, the movie probably could have been trimmed with a little bit of judicious editing. Even so, AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is a movie many people will want to watch more than once.
Gandalf, as one of the five guardians of Middle Earth, delivers some of the best lines. He says Bilbo was chosen, not because he was a powerful fighter, a rich man, or a king, but because he exhibits loyalty, honor, and a willing heart. Gandalf says true courage is not taking a life but knowing when to spare a life when killing is unnecessary. This becomes a key plot development that’s also quite profound, especially if you know what will come next. When Thorin talks about the character of great kings, Gandalf says it’s the small things that matter, people who exhibit meekness, kindness, and love. Bilbo wins the hearts of the dwarves when he tells them he has a home he loves, so he understands their loss and has decided to help them reclaim their own home.
It’s been said that every man and woman wants to go on an adventure; and, that everyone has a vision of a golden age in the past that they want to reclaim as their lost home. If so, this movie plays the right notes.
There must be a caution, however. Some of the characters are too scary, and some of the battles too intense. Creatures that look like people are beheaded, including King Thror, with blood trailing from his head. Other people are gutted and body parts and bones lie strewn about, with discussion of cannibalism. Some reviewers say AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY isn’t as intense as LORD OF THE RINGS, but this reviewer thinks it was.
Another caution is, of course, the story of wizardry and magic. The Bible condemns sorcery and magic, but Tolkien and C.S. Lewis tried to redeem both. In their books, Gandalf is a guardian angel, and the characters have greater meaning. The movie, however, diminishes the angelic qualities while focusing more on magic that may cross into the area the Bible warns us about. Thus, Gandalf’s brown wizard friend, Radagast, who takes care of the animals, is more of a warlock, however, less grand, and less like an angel. When he smokes the pipe, it seems like he’s smoking something much more potent and mind altering than tobacco.
However, the overall character arcs and story are exciting, uplifting, moral, redemptive, and talk about self-sacrifice, honor, kindness, and redemption as the key to success, not greed and hunger for power. There’s also a bit of humor and a strong Christian sense of the temptation of sin. Ultimately, therefore, THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is a grand epic adventure.
Editor’s note: One of the 3D versions of AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is being released in 48 frames per second, double the 24 frames per second speed of traditional theatrical filmmaking. This bold version vibrantly brings out the movie’s colors and makes the 3D images pop. It also seems to draw the viewer more closely into the story’s environment. However, 48 frames per second makes the movie look a little bit more like a super-duper video production than an old-fashioned movie. Thus, some purists have expressed disappointment about this new visual texture.
(BBB, CC, O, VV, N, A, DD, M) Very strong moral worldview with strong redemptive elements of self-sacrifice and reclaiming a lost home, along with references to the sinful nature of the world, that echo the Christian worldview of the original author, J.R.R. Tolkien, plus some elements of magic, wizardry, using nature to cure sickness, and witchcraft; no foul language but hints of scatological humor and birds have relieved themselves on a character’s head because he keeps a small bird’s nest under his goofy-looking hat; lost of action violence including hand and arm chopped off, a beheading, person sliced through the stomach, body parts and bones strewn about, falls from great heights, one fallen character threatens to kill and eat another character, characters face huge rock slides, and attacks by wolves, orcs, trolls, and goblins, most of which is action violence and a small part of which is bloody; no sex; upper male nudity; some drinking; much pipe smoking and a suggestion in one scene that it’s not tobacco; and, Bilbo is taught to be a burglar and there’s some deception and stealing.
Part One of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is a grand epic. Gandalf the Grey suggests a little hobbit named Bilbo help some dwarves recover their homeland under the Lonely Mountain. A great evil dragon has taken over their home because of a greedy king. Furthermore, the greedy king was killed by an army of murderous orcs. Bilbo is a reluctant adventurer, but along the way, he displays loyalty, honor, and courage. Will they be able to reclaim the dwarves’ homeland in time?
AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is a grand piece of epic filmmaking. Magnificent sets, wondrous vistas, and tremendous battles make this an epic to be reckoned with. That said, some battles go on too long, some of the journey is repetitious, and some of the violence is too intense and scary for children. Also, one of Gandalf’s friends is more like a warlock. Even so, the overall character arcs and story are exciting, uplifting, moral, and redemptive. Also, THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY talks about self-sacrifice, kindness, and redemption as the key to success, not greed and hunger for power.