Last year’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was met with mixed reviews ranging from people who were either expecting the book, or people who were expecting The Lord of the Rings films. I, on the other hand, loved it. I saw it three times in the theater and about eight times repeatedly on blu-ray. The movie is a strange case for movie adaptations because it takes a lot of liberties with the story of the book, but it manages to keep in little aspects of the book that you’d think would be cut day one for a movie script. What else it manages to do is keep to key themes Tolkien often included in his books.
But in slapping all his pockets and feeling all round himself for matches his hand came on the hilt of his little sword – the little dagger that he got from the trolls, and that he had quite forgotten; nor fortunately had the goblins noticed it; as he wore it inside his breeches. Now he drew it out. It shone pale and dim before his eyes. “So it is an elvish blade, too,” he thought; “and goblins are not very near, and yet not far enough.” But somehow he was comforted. It was rather splendid to be wearing a blade made in Gondolin for the goblin-wars of which so many songs had sung; and also he had noticed that such weapons made a great impression on goblins that came upon them suddenly.
The scene in the film yet again establishes Bilbo as a humble hobbit and not an adventurer or someone who intends to use a sword, setting up the scene in which he shows Gollum mercy, but it takes this turning point away from Bilbo in the film. It’s after he realizes his sword is the stuff of legends that he decides there’s no going back. It’s an important moment for him, on his own, without Gandalf or the dwarves to help him when he encounters Gollum. Sting is just as important to Bilbo’s development as is the One Ring and the film sort of fails to establish this.
Additions to the film I enjoyed.
Radagast the Brown – Even though he does a terrible job of drawing off the Wargs and Orcs the addition of Radagast the Brown imbeds An Unexpected Journey with a theme very familiar to Tolkien’s work that the Lord of the Rings film trilogy failed to realize at times. The theme of nature and the natural world being affected by the dark power infected Dol Guldur as well as the theme Gandalf mentions to Galadriel later in the film.
Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.
His addition also brings a lighter tone to the film that I believe is refreshing.
Dol Guldur, The Necromancer, The Witch-king of Angmar and the Morgul Blade – While everyone was complaining that they turned the Hobbit into three films, I got excited because this meant everything only mentioned in the appendix of The Lord of the Rings would come to fruition in these movies. In the book Gandalf just disappears for a bit, says he took care of the Necromancer and wanders back into story. Now in these films we have Sauron in his Necromancer body bringing back the Nazgul, including the Witch-king of Angmar who I believe was underused in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Gandalf and the White Council basically on their own side-quest that will have grave repercussions for The Lord of the Rings. I really hope we get to see the Necromancer in the two films, as we know Benedict Cumberbatch did some acting for it.
Everything changed about the dwarves (so far)- Until the very end of the Hobbit, after Smaug has been taken down the dwarves are kind of goofy, falling over each other, getting captured by trolls, orcs, and elves. None of them are very distinctive at all except with a line or two here and there until later on when Thorin becomes infected with dragon-sickness. In the films, they’re much more unique with drastically different physical appearances, personalities, speech patterns and motivations though sometimes subtle. In the film you can see Balin and Bofur taking a liking to Bilbo, and how Fili and Kili are young warriors trying to prove themselves to their Uncle Thorin, with a bit of youthful mischief still in them. You can see Ori as the baby of the group, a bit more naive than the rest of them and Balin is the eldest, wise grandpa dwarf, friendly but a bit cynical and cantankerous.
Then there is Thorin Oakenshield, the tragic king of the likes of Hamlet or Macbeth as compared to Aragorn’s King Arthur. Thorin is kingly but filled with anger and mistrust, unable to discern friend from foe, easily holding grudges against those who have wronged him. His progression from dismissing Bilbo to embracing him was great for this story and I am even more excited to see his development in the next two movies.
Keep reading for Part 2 in which I discuss what I am glad they left out from the books and what I was surprised to find they put in.