PG-13, 182 min (extended edition)
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, J.R.R. Tolkien (novel “The Hobbit”)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Scott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Sylvester McCoy, Barry Humphries, Jeffrey Thomas, Lee Pace, Manu Bennett
It seems “The Hobbit” trilogy hasn’t been as well received as “The Lord of the Rings”. It’s flown in a little lower under the radar and fueled less passion than Jackson’s first Middle Earth trilogy. Much of the dismay about it seems focused on the fact that it was one book that he’s making into three very long movies, instead of three slightly longer movies out of three books. I really don’t see the extension of the story as a negative, as long as what they come up with is good. Roger Ebert always said, no good movie is ever too long; no bad movie is ever short enough.
When I originally saw “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in theaters, I absolutely loved it. It was my favorite of the bunch. Of course, I had just re-watched the LOTR trilogy in preparation on my significantly smaller than a movie screen television at home. There was every possibility that I had forgotten some of the power of Middle Earth on the big screen and gotten wrapped back up in it when I found myself experiencing it in theaters once again. Had I seen a different movie than everybody else?
So now, in preparation for the final Hobbit movie, I’ve re-watched all the LOTR movies once again and then went back to the Hobbit at home this time. I still would say “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is my favorite of the bunch. It’s more fun than any of the others. Jackson injects the themes of LOTR in to the story with extended scenes from the book and added ones from later compendiums on Middle Earth compiled by the obsessive Tolkien after the success of his novels. But the meat of the “Hobbit” storyline is much lighter-hearted than the LOTR stories. Jackson allows those fun moments through here in sequences like the escape from the Goblin kingdom and even in the inclusion of new characters like Radagast the Brown.
As is often the case with treasured film franchises that are returned to later in sequels or prequels, lovers of the LOTR series go into these films with expectations that can no longer be reached, even by the same filmmaker injecting many of the same characters and themes into the story. What they originally treasured so much has been shaped and distorted by time. It is no longer the pure experience they once had but one they’ve extended their thought processes about and with which have solidified their points of view. In some ways, the original film is no longer the filmmakers’ but belongs to the fans. A filmmaker can no more make a movie exactly the way a fan wants than they can repeat a moment of greatness with the exact same impact after it has already been seen. The first film in the “Hobbit” trilogy stays true to the fun and relative innocence of the book and is also masterfully placed into the context of what is yet to come, as LOTR takes place after the events of “The Hobbit”. It isn’t “The Lord of the Rings”, however, nor should it be.