Hobbit Expectedly Well Done

Kevin Fong, Editor-in-Chief

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy opened at midnight on December 14. As an avid fan of the previous movies and the original book series, I was excited to see the transformation from the page to the screen.

Although there are a few blunders, the film will satisfy LOTR fans overall.

The story, set in the same Middle Earth as LOTR but 60 years earlier, follows Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys to the Lonely Mountain with a wizard and a band of dwarves. Directed by Peter Jackson, The Hobbit has the same story telling style as the previous LOTR movies. There is a vast array of spectacular settings. Many sets are familiar to those that have seen the previous LOTR films, with the reappearance of The Shire and Rivendell.

Although it pays homage to the movies that came before it, The Hobbit does not rely on the LOTR trilogy. There are many moments when LOTR veterans will catch references to the previous film. Having that background knowledge gives some scenes another layer of meaning; however, those who are new to Middle Earth will not be lost. The beginning is dedicated to educating the audience about the situation the characters face. The film opens on the events leading up to the start of the previous trilogy before splitting off in its own direction. Bilbo sets the story in motion by reflecting on his past, wanting to share it with his nephew, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood).

Continuity with the previous movies is an issue, however. Many of the reprised creatures are created using CGI, rather than portrayed by the original actors. A viewer familiar with LOTR may not be able to recognize the orcs, wolves, and goblins. I was disappointed that the same type of creatures weren’t used in The Hobbit because it made the story feel just a little off. Another unfortunate observation is the varying proportions of the dwarves throughout the film. In the first few scenes, it seems as though they change sizes every time the shot switches, but as the film progresses it becomes less noticeable.

When I went into the theater I believed that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey would encapsulate the entire novel. I was wrong. I found out that it ends with questions unanswered, though the length of the film is significant. Although I appreciate the director wanting to include as much as possible, some scenes could have been shortened. Others were a little cheesy, including cuts back and forth between the villain and the hero, and a sweeping pan of the group standing atop a rock at sunrise.

Despite these few misgivings, the editing is fantastic. The cuts from shot to shot set the rhythm for each scene. The actions shots leave hearts beating and palms clammy, while the emotional scenes will tender even the most blackened of souls.

Riddled throughout are flashes of comedy. Carrying these scenes is the subtly of the actors. They do an amazing job of conveying meaning through simple movements, giving the audience a break from the heart pounding action. The casting director did an excellent job finding the right actor for each role. Each fits his or her character well.

Based on J.R. Tolkien’s novel, the film stays true to the original plot; however, some understandable changes are made to ease the transition from paper to screen. For example, while the book does not have a clear antagonist aside from the dragon, the movie has a chief orc from whom the group desperately tries to escape. The film also gives importance to characters who did not have as much fame in the novel. The Brown Wizard makes his debut, and a good amount of time is spent following his story before he meets up with Bilbo and the gang. Characters from the LOTR trilogy that weren’t mention in the book were also given part of the spot light in a few scenes.

The changes did not feel awkwardly grafted. Having the movie end where it does, however, leaves me questioning how the second film will pan out. It seems as though there isn’t much plot left, and I would hate to have it end on a disappointing note. This first part of The Hobbit was entertaining and satisfactory, but it should not be compared to the original trilogy. The trilogy inspired a kind of awe. Expecting The Hobbit to live up to those standards is unfair. It will elicit laughter, fear, sympathy, and anger.

The Hobbit is an excellent movie, and I recommend it to everyone who enjoys a good story.