Somehow, with the bustle of the holidays, I did not make it to the The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey. We had a collection of extended family—cousins, grandparents, in-laws—almost like a gathering of the Bagginses, Brandybucks, and Tooks. Our festivities kicked off the Thursday before Christmas with people coming-and-going, so it was nearly the six-day hobbit Yule celebration.
After Christmas dinner, when things had finally settled down, I was feeling rather like Bilbo Baggins, ready for a quiet night by the fire with a cup of tea. Then, the phone rang. The family fun was not over, and an evening trip to The Hobbit was proposed. Much like Bilbo with the dwarves, I declined the adventure at first. But my 14-year-old nephew talked me out of this moment of temporary insanity. Just like Bilbo, when I saw everyone leaving, I realized I did not want to be left behind.
There were eight of us, heading off like Thorin Oakenshield’s merry band of dwarves. Among us were three Tolkien geeks (moi aussi), including my brother-in-law who quoted to us impressively from The Silmarillion. Our company also included a couple of people who hadn’t “gotten into” The Hobbit, another way of saying “I just stopped reading.” And, we actually brought along someone who’d never seen The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) film trilogy. (I know, but you cannot pick your relatives.)
Everyone, from the neophytes to the Tolkien-obsessed, loved The Hobbit movie! As with LOTR, Peter Jackson mined Tolkien’s detailed notes and his history of Middle-Earth, The Silmarillion. Jackson starts his story before the novel does, with the exciting tale of the Dwarf kingdom of Erebor and the Lonely Mountain. Also, in the first few scenes, we get a cameo of Frodo—and the whole theater cheered. There were more cheers when Bilbo’s pen scratched out the book’s first words: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Later, there were gasps and some hisses when Saruman showed up in Rivendell.
Thanks to this Star Wars-esque reverse filming of LOTR before The Hobbit, many viewers learn about Saruman’s treachery before they see him as an important force for good in the first book. It’s like watching young Anakin Skywalker, knowing he will grow up to be Darth Vader. Though here it’s a pity, because the Saruman story unfolds with some great twists in LOTR that have much more punch if you’ve read (or seen) The Hobbit first.
Without anymore near spoilers, I’ll add that keen observers will note that the dreaded three Trolls from this film make a brief cameo in LOTR: The Fellowship of The Ring. Finally, I’ll admit that I teared up when Bilbo first reaches for Sting.
My favorite part of the movie, however, is when Frodo heads out to greet the arrival of Gandalf. Yes, this film starts on the very same day as the LOTR trilogy, Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday—now celebrated around the world as Hobbit Day. We will next see Frodo at the opening of The Fellowship of the Ring, on the road waving down Gandalf. This circular approach is a brilliant move by Jackson, and I feel will ultimately weave the two trilogies together perfectly. The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey is worth the trip!! I just wish, per Saturday Night Live’s trailer above, there really were 18 more sequels.