Monday, October 12, 2015

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Spoiler alert (for movie and book)!

As most of you know, the short children's book The Hobbit  was stretched impossibly into three movies. An Unexpected Journey was the first. When I first saw this movie, I expected it to be stand-alone, so I was a bit shocked at the ending. This time around I knew what to expect, so I was better prepared to enjoy the movie.

This movie covers approximately the first third of the book. The wizard Gandalf appears unexpectedly in Bilbo's home, bringing with him a band of dwarves. Bilbo is hired as a burglar to steal a treasure from the formidable dragon Smaug. Bilbo and his friends almost immediately run into Radagast the Brown - a rather befuddled nature wizard who tells Gandalf that a terrible force is destroying the forest and killing animals. Gandalf runs off with Radagast, leaving Bilbo and his friends alone. This is an interesting development compared to the book, since Gandalf does, indeed, run off and do his own private stuff at this time, but Gandalf's reasons are much more mysterious. Radagast isn't even a character in the book The Hobbit, though he is a Middle Earth character developed by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Once alone, the first obstacle Bilbo and the dwarves run into is a few hungry trolls, who capture them and begin to argue about how to cook them. Bilbo saves his friends by distracting the trolls with inane conversation and argument until the sun rises and the trolls are turned to stone. In the book, it was actually Gandalf who saved them all by making mock troll voices which kept them arguing around in a circle until the sun came up. I rather liked Peter Jackson's twist on this story - it makes Bilbo seem more capable and less of a buffoon than he was in the book. This fits with the more adult vibe of the movie compared to the book.

The troop are then chased by the orc henchmen through the countryside until they have no choice but to seek refuge with the dwarf king Thorin's perceived "enemies," the elves. Despite Thorin's animosity, they are welcomed by the elf-king Elrond. This is another difference between the movie and the book. There wasn't so much elf-dwarf animosity in the original story. I think this difference adds depth of character and a darker undertone to the story - thus giving it the same darkly romantic atmosphere as the LOTR movies. 

The rest of the movie fits pretty well with the book. The troop is captured by goblins, and the dwarves escape while Bilbo manages to find an enchanted ring and to win a riddle competition with the frightening amphibious Gollum. 

As soon as everything seems fine, they are then chased yet again by the orcs. Although this second orc-chase did happen in the book, the backstory of Azog (an orc warlord and Thorin's sworn enemy) is entirely made up. This is one of many insertions used to lengthen the story into three movies. 

I'm not generally one to dislike a movie just because it doesn't follow the book, so I found these changes interesting (I love contrasting various adaptations). The movie was more enjoyable this time around than it was the first time - partly because I was expecting the sudden end, and partly because the book was fresh in my mind for comparison. It's a fantastic epic story, and I think everyone should be familiar with it. Though reading the book would probably take less time than watching all three movies. :)

4 stars for adventure, characterization, mood, plot, action, and special effects


  1. I need to sit down and watch all of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films in order and in a relatively concise time period. I find that they are brilliant, but so time consuming. Thus this is difficult as time is at such a premium.

    1. Yeah, they are quite the time commitment. And you can get a bit over-Tolkiened if you try watching all 6 in a row. :)