“…one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast…Gandalf came by.”
My 15 year old daughter and I went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last night. It was a long awaited and put off trek to the movie theater where we watched J.R.R. Tolkien's classic children's story in regular 2-D format by choice and it was an unfortunate one.
Being a Tolkien afficionado, I've read multiple reviews of this film. They have been all over the board from simply stunning to pure and total garbage. Peter Jackson has chosen to make a film that likely won't have the rabid Tolkien fan base froth at the mouth nearly as much as we did because of what he left out. The Hobbit is nineteen chapters long. This first installment of three films ran right about 2 hours and forty minutes (not counting credits). No one but Jackson and his crew know how long the last two parts will be but the figure of a total of nine hours isn't far off the mark. I can read The Hobbit aloud easily in that amount of time and discuss it as well! No, no one should complain about what he left out. Many complaints I'm hearing are about what Jackson put IN IT!.
One complaint was about the dwarf songs...Jackson included several songs sung by the company of Dwarves in Bibo's home at Bag End. I remember distinctly reading these songs (or not depending on how closely I was reading the book==which has been read many multiple times). These were not padding. Tolkien put the songs (and there are many in his tales of Middle Earth) into his books to help share some of the history and give insight into the characters doing the singing. Jackson brilliantly adapted those songs along with delightful antics by the Dwarf members of the troop. Th songs did their jobs well and WORKED.
Jackson pulled story lines from the appendices of Lord of the Rings. He also created content from the "throwaway lines" of the original text. There is a sub plot of the Necromancer in the "Green Wood" and a significant plot line of a chief orc, Azog the Defiler.
One friend said that Jackson created a new character with Azog--but no, he worked (likely) for Sauron and was in the original trilogy - the "King of Moria", the mines what Thorin's grandfather attempted to inhabit after being driven from the Lonely Mountain. I think Azog was a goblin in the original. In this film Azog was the chief antagonist and gave the film the movement and focus necessary to keep the Dwarves and the Hobbit from just wandering aimlessly toward their goal of retaking the Lonely Mountain. This and other "padding" by Jackson was thoughtfully and beautifully done and provide plenty of action sequences.
The character, Radagast the Brown, is greatly expanded by Jackson. Radagast is one of the wizards in Gandalf's circle (there are only five and two have gone missing). He is an eccentric wizard and Jackson seized upon that to make a character who is likeable and certainly helpful to the cause although he is dismissed by Saruman as less than dependable. If only Saruman knew.
There are battles, there is running, there are scenes a' la Indiana Jones in the depths of the earth. Throughout the film we are treated to breath-taking New Zealand scenery and views of Imladris or Rivendell. This is all cemented together by the outstanding performance of Ian McKellan playing once again his imposing Gandalf the Grey. We are treated to visuals that are startling. We see intimate details one wouldn't expect (who knew Gandalf's fingernails are so dirty?). This film was worth the trip.
I'll be going back to see this again in 3-D although not at the 48 frame per second filming that is touted as being so wonderful (closest theater that can do this is 150 miles away). As I left the theater last night at about 12:10am, I felt exactly what I heard someone leaving ahead of me: " It sux that we have to wait a year for the next one."