WELCOME BACK MIDDLE EARTH!
It’s impossible to truly articulate just how much I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Leading up to the release, I created 9 Middle Earth posts including a Top 30 Countdown of the series’ best moments. It’s safe to say, I didn’t force myself to write those posts. I love writing about Middle Earth and what it means to me.
To me, the Lord of the Rings is more than just a groundbreaking trilogy. It’s a source of inspiration in my own screenwriting journey. For that, I will always be thankful. Having said all that, you can imagine how excited I was to finally see The Hobbit after years of development. At long last, we get to return to Middle Earth.
I loved the first chapter of this new trilogy. It’s packed with amazing battles, creatures and moments worthy of Middle Earth. It’s definitely entertaining but allow me to quote Bilbo himself by saying this film feels a bit stretched…
“Like butter scraped over too much bread.”
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey begins with a mission. The dwarves lost their home to a ferocious dragon named Smaug. It is their goal to reclaim their home. Thanks to Gandalf the Wizard, they are joined by Bilbo and the adventure begins… At it’s core, the LOTR trilogy was about Frodo and the One Ring. Here, the mission is to defeat Smaug. Simple enough except once the story is setup, the film tends to go off on tangents for over an hour.
Some of these episodes are more entertaining than others while some (like giant fighting mountains) seem out of place. It doesn’t have the same focus but that’s what happens when you stretch one book into three films.
When the Fellowship of the Ring was released, I lot of people were disappointed by what they left out. For example, the episode featuring Tom Bombadil. It made me curious about the scene and I wondered what it would be like on the big screen. The Hobbit feels like Peter Jackson’s attempt to appease those fans by including everything and more. So while I felt the first half of the film was stalling, I can’t really complain because we do get to see more Middle Earth.
Normally, an hour of filler would absolutely kill a film but it’s a testament to Jackson’s directing skills that The Hobbit doesn’t die. Each of the ‘detours’ are packed with the rich history of J.R.R Tolkien’s world as well as delightful references to the LOTR trilogy. Characters we love return and we truly get a sense that something evil is coming. Sauron.
Eventually, the film finds it’s focus and that’s when The Hobbit truly shines. I absolutely adored the second half of An Unexpected Journey. This is highlighted by Bilbo’s famous encounter with Gollum. It was great to see one of the greatest characters in all of fiction back on the big screen. From a technical perspective, Gollum has never looked better. The technology behind this tortured soul has most certainly improved and watching him on an IMAX screen is spectacular.
Throughout the game of riddles we also follow the dwarves into the heart of Goblin town. The whole Goblin escape is truly breathtaking on the big screen and a reminder that we are going to see MORE incredible battles in the next two films. Indeed, Middle Earth has returned in a big way.
I had my complaints about the lengthy first half but The Hobbit is still a wildly entertaining movie. It sucks that The Desolation of Smaug is a year away but hopefully we’ll have an extended edition Blu Ray before then. The Lord of the Rings extended editions boast, in my opinion, the best special features of all time. I can’t wait for more.