Inevitably, people are going to compare The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to its mind-bogglingly successful predecessor. I know I did. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is incredibly important to me; there is a part that reduces me to a blubbering mess every time I watch it. It’s called the entire thing. The level of attachment I have to the books, but mostly the movies, borders on embarrassing.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) for whoever is reading this, I have no fear of embarrassment when it comes to discussing movies. I saw Return of the King 14 times in the theatre. I went 14 times, once a weekend over a three-month period, because I felt that Peter Jackson captured the essence of the books so well I became convinced he created a portal to Middle Earth. Granted, some of that may have been induced by my love of “pipe-weed” or “Halflings leaf,” but I haven’t touched the stuff for years and my anticipation of The Hobbit has superseded my feelings about Lord of the Rings. For me, the LOTR was Jesus, but The Hobbit is God.
My mom spent hours reading The Hobbit to my brother and I as kids. I have distinct memories of the sound of her voice echoing from my brother’s room as she lulled him to sleep with Tolkien. We spent summer after summer listening to the BBC’s book on tape of The Hobbit while driving through the Rockies on yearly trips to Kelowna. We would inevitably come to the mountains near Revelstoke and stare longingly at their misty peaks, my imagination filled with visions of dwarves mining the mountains. Even through years of painful leg waxing, I would squeal when the esthetician got to my feet because my mom told me that my Hobbit magic was in my furry feet and I haven’t removed a hair from my toes or the tops of my feet since.
The Hobbit movie was near perfection for me. I did hear snippets of people complaining about its length, which could only come from those who aren’t true Tolkien fans, and who clearly didn’t get the importance of these movies. Martin Freeman is the perfect Bilbo, he plays a Hobbit on the cusp of settling into middle age, displaying a wonderful balance of agoraphobia and resistance to his rut. I could have sat through the movie if it were six hours long. It was a dazzling start to a story that was clearly made in the same spirit as the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
In fact it’s arguably better, given the advances in moviemaking technology that made the visuals even more stunning. Take, for example, a five-minute-long Hobbit food porn scene that made me want to stab a hunk of cooked ham with a pitchfork and eat off of it. The painstaking attention to detail is a treat for lovers of the trilogy and seeing the Weta creatures was almost surreal. What’s more terrifying than a bloodthirsty Orc, you ask? A bloodthirsty Orc in 3D. Or a grotesque goblin king with a 10-inch goiter hanging from his chin.
Of course there were moments of hokey, over-the-top sentimentality, but that’s what I paid for and that’s what I got from the books. When Thorin Oakenshield (who is arguably the hottest dwarf I have ever seen, played by Richard Armitage) sets Bilbo up in the final scene for a dwarven bear hug, I almost cringed, but then remembered it’s that unconcealed sense of goodness that made me fall in love with the story in the first place.
I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this film to true Tolkien and Jackson fans. If the breathtakingly beautiful scene in Rivendell with Saruman, Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel doesn’t make you tremble, you have missed the fact that Jackson has essentially allowed you to be in Middle Earth. If you loved Lord of the Rings, you will love The Hobbit. It is a gift to its fans from Peter Jackson and I left feeling elated to be living in such a beautiful time in moviemaking history.