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Daily Archives: December 21st, 2012

Can we be done with the end of the world?

I don’t mean the song. That’s twenty-five years old and still awesome.

I mean the doomsday prophecies. It’s 12/21/12, the day that some people decided would be the end of the world because it was the end of the Mayan calendar (as so many have already said, my calendar ends every year). I’m twenty-five years old too, but I’m already tired of the people claiming that the world is going to end on such and such a date just because somebody who couldn’t predict the downfall of their own civilization said that it would. I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve lived through “the end” just during my lifetime. Can we just all agree to stop claiming that we know what’s going to happen? The uncertainty of life is part of what makes it so beautiful. We have a (still relatively) beautiful planet that’s going to keep on spinning. We have so many things to explore and learn and see, but if we stop living each day just because we think that things are about to end, we waste so much potential. Just be happy.

Peter Jackson’s first prequel to his sweeping epic Lord of the Rings film trilogy premiered last week. Thanks to some forethought, my friends and I were able to attend a midnight release here in Colorado.

The Hobbit has been one of my favorite books since before I could read. When I was a child, my father would read the book to my siblings and me, and we would pretend that we too had been swept away into grand adventures in Middle Earth. Naturally, like many other fans, I was curious as to how Jackson would be able to adapt one shorter book into a film trilogy. I was not disappointed. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is but the first film that will present the beginning of the story we saw concluded in The Return of the King in 2003.

Now this adaptation covers the first portion of The Hobbit, but it expands upon it, including bits from Tolkien’s extensive body of work. Characters and events from The Silmarillion and the other tales from Middle Earth are brought into play for the film, adding a considerable depth that is expected of Jackson’s adaptations (for example, the love story between Aragorn and Arwen in the LOTR film trilogy is told in an appendix at the end of The Return of the King in the books).

The Hobbit opens with the incredible Sir Ian Holm reprising his role as Bilbo Baggins as he is preparing for his 111th birthday, as shown in The Fellowship of the Ring. He begins to reminisce about how things came to be, and we are soon transported sixty years back in time. Martin Freeman (best known as John Watson from the BBC’s Sherlock) portrays a younger Bilbo, and magnificently captures all of the mannerisms first portrayed by Holm back in 2001. Bilbo is quite content to stay at home until a chance encounter with Gandalf (again played  by Sir Ian McKellen) brings a host of dwarves to his door.

What do you mean we "all look alike"?

What do you mean we “all look alike”?

The dwarves (Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori, Ori, Balin, and Dwalin) promptly and hilariously make themselves at home at Bilbo’s, much to the hobbit’s bewilderment, but answers quickly appear with Gandalf’s return and the arrival of the dwarves’ leader, Thorin Oakenshield. It seems that years ago, Thorin’s ancestors were driven from their home in Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, by the arrival of a terrible dragon known as Smaug. Now they seek to return to Erebor, kill the dragon, and claim his treasure hoard, all with Bilbo’s help (as the scent of hobbit would be unknown to Smaug, unlike the smell of dwarf, elf, or man).

The next morning, Bilbo finds that the dwarves have gone on their way, and he quickly rushes off to join them, realizing that is his chance to experience a true adventure. He is soon swept up in a journey that takes him from the Shire to Rivendell to Goblintown and beyond. Bilbo slowly transforms from quiet homebody to burgeoning adventurer.

As is expected of a Peter Jackson film, the visuals are simply breathtaking. Going back to Middle Earth feels like going home. The score is just as entrancing, aided by lyrics from Tolkien himself. Despite the expansion from the texts, the film never felt too long. The casting was perfect, with the dwarves being highly individual (my initial fear, as there are thirteen of them). The plot is well balanced, establishing moments that we know will be coming, such as the inevitable confrontation with Smaug. The shining moment of the entire film, however, is the riddle contest, in which Bilbo first encounters Gollum and finds the ring which sets so much in motion. Gollum is again played (motion capture and voice) by Andy Serkis, and he’s more real than ever before.

And so, to make a long story short (too late), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a great beginning to another powerhouse trilogy. I can’t wait for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in 2013, but until then, I’ll be sure to see part one at least two more times. Don’t just take my word for it. See it for yourself.