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Hobbit movie image crop etcSomehow, 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.

Bring On the Hobbit Triple-Play!

Happy Hobbit Day! Happy Hobbitversary! 75 Years On

September 22 is Hobbit Day

Ten Ways to Celebrate Hobbit Day

The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey (official site)

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy

Lord of The Rings Wiki

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Hello?! Am I the only person who is excited—thrilled, actually—that Peter Jackson is turning The Hobbit into three movies?! (FYI, the book celebrates its 75th anniversary on Friday, September 21.) Seriously, I don’t understand all the snarkiness. Genius director: check. Passionate about the source material: check. Proven track record: double and triple check. Jackson won countless awards and honors for The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) film trilogy, including the 2004 Best Picture Oscar for The Return of the King.

Heck, The Lord of the Rings legendarium by J. R. R. Tolkien could have easily been four movies, or six! There were actually six volumes to the series—two per book. So much was left out! The Rangers of the North; the Hobbits’ Second Breakfast (mentioned only in the Fellowship Extended Edition); Mirkwood Forest and its mischievous elves (though we know we will get this in The Hobbit films); the Scouring of the Shire; the true reach and power of the insidious Palantír; the tenuousness of Aragorn’s position as the ‘heir of Isildur among the fiefdoms of men; the storied history and strategic importance of Osgiliath; and also Minas Morgul, which in the book (but not the movie) is one of the ‘Two Towers.’

The mystery and tense uncertainty as the Fellowship wound through the Mines of Moria had me so gripped reading the book, but the The Fellowship of the Ring movie reveals the fate of the dwarves straightaway. I must give Jackson major props, however, for including my very favorite line from the trilogy in both his first and second film. It’s in Moria, when Gandalf is dangling from a precipice in the clutches the Balrog. The rest of the Fellowship hesitates, turning back to help him. “Fly you fools!” he barks, just before he plunges into the abyss.

Most egregiously, however, they cut the wonderful romance of Faramir and Éowyn. Seriously, how could they have left that completely out?! It’s barely referenced even in the Extended Edition. (Yes, I own the Extended Editions of all three movies.) Two of my favorite characters, individually, actually end up together. All in all, there was simply not enough of Faramir in the films.

Still, there is only so much of this epic that could be squeezed into just three movies. If only the extendo craze (which made two films out of the final volumes of both Harry Potter and Twilight) had happened pre-LOTR. I did like the first three Twilight flicks, but Breaking Dawn – Part One was a low point, painful really. If you haven’t subjected yourself, skip it and rewatch Vampires Suck.

I don’t mean to knock or diminish Jackson’s achievement with the LOTR trilogy. All three films are amazing, brilliant, seminal—truly among the best ever made. But, The Return of the King felt to me a tad rushed and left me a teense unsatisfied. I wanted more.

There is so much to cover in The Hobbit. Did I mention that Friday, Sept 21 is the books 75th anniversary? I am so eager to see all of it—every minute! After all, the past few holiday seasons have seen a dearth of blockbusters, with Harry Potter done and James Bond mothballed by MGM’s bankruptcy (until this November 9th—eureka). It’s been a real let down. I am savoring the whole fevered run-up to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which hits theaters on December 14th. Check out the awesome latest trailer! Even better, after that we have two more movies to look forward to … bonus!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Latest Trailer

The Hobbit Movie: Original Announcement Trailer

The Hobbit Movies (Official Website)

The Hobbit (background on the book via Wikipedia)

Tolkien’s Hobbit Celebrates 75th Anniversary

September 22 is Hobbit Day!

Ten Ways to Celebrate Hobbit Day

The Hobbit: What Has Made the Book Such an Enduring Success?

The Hobbit Second Breakfast (via the Wall St Journal)

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