Reactions to the Trailer for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

See the trailer for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” here at Snippets

“You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.”  “Can you promise that I will come back?” “No…and if you do, you will not be the same.”

You know how I know I’m a dork?  Because when I heard those lines of dialogue in the recently released trailer of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, it gave me goose bumps.  Literally.  And it’s just a scrap of dialogue between the wizard Gandalf the Grey and Bilbo Baggins, a simple Hobbit of the Shire.  While their conversation transitions into voiceover, we see the overwhelmingly significant scene where Bilbo discovers the Ring, an event that is the catalyst for the entire epic fantasy trilogy that J. R. R. Tolkien is best known for.

For fans of the Lord of the Rings films, the release of “The Hobbit” is a thrilling return to Peter Jackson’s rendition of Middle-Earth.  Ian Holms reprised his role as Bilbo from “The Rings” to a minor degree, apparently to narrate bits of the new movie.  But the new star hobbit (who looks to be the most accurate casting for a hobbit ever) is Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo.  With naturally chubby British features and a foppish head of hair, he’s the closest thing to the ideal vision that Tolkien had for the little halflings.  And this younger, livelier Bilbo is a far cry from the aged and wizened mentor of Frodo.  He’s a bit snotty, albeit good-natured, and is initially comically disinterested when Gandalf offers to take him along on a journey.  But much like a cat, a Baggins is much too curious to pass up on an adventure!

A key theme that pops up immediately in The Hobbit is Fellowship, ever present in Tolkien’s mind throughout all his work.  Whereas our only dwarf in the Rings was the stalwart Gimli, The Hobbit gives us a troupe of merry men (or should I say, Dwarves) that serve as companions to Gandalf and Bilbo.  But their names are not Sleepy, Grumpy, or Sleezy.  And rather than seven, we get a baker’s dozen of hardened warriors, led by the heir to a dwarven throne (which consequently makes the company deliberately similar to that of Beowulf in the classic epic beloved by Tolkien, but that’s neither here nor there).  But hey, they aren’t out to save the world or anything; Thorin Oakenshield (the leader) simply wants to go beat up a dragon, snatch all its treasure, and reclaim the throne that is rightfully his.  No big.

While there will be several familiar faces – such as Gandalf and Legolas – Bilbo’s adventure takes place more than sixty years prior to Frodo’s quest to destroy The One Ring.  Frodo’s not even born, Aragorn is just a young boy, and Gimli doesn’t even have a beard yet!  But it’s more than worth noting the distinction between those two different words I used a moment ago: adventure and quest.  In the “Rings”, the Elvin queen Galadriel says to Frodo, “This task is appointed to you and if you do not find a way, no one will.”  His task is his quest, something that by a chance of fate he is obligated to perform.  Only he can save Middle-earth by destroying the Ring.  But Bilbo’s adventure is something that he willingly embarks on.  And that, as they say, makes all the difference.

If done right, the distinction between Frodo’s quest and Bilbo’s adventure will truly define and set apart “The Hobbit” as its own entity.  Whereas the trilogy was rightfully dramatic and overwrought, “The Hobbit” stands to be a lot of lighthearted fun and quite a bit of exciting peril.  There is no supreme evil that Bilbo has to conquer, whether external or internal.  It’s a much simpler tale that sprang out of Tolkien when his son pleaded for a bedtime story.  But interestingly enough, the tone of this new trailer seems much darker and more fantastical than the three films that preceded it.  And in a way this makes sense.  “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy needs a lot of light and love to counterbalance the overwhelming doom that hangs over the whole tale, and it’s a serious story that minimizes the magic to increase the gravity.  With “The Hobbit” there is magic everywhere!

But per the usual, I’m ranting and raving too much.  Needless to say, I am very excited for this film to come out.  Bilbo will be exploring many familiar haunts from the 2001 trilogy, and obviously the scenery, cinematics, and animation will have improved drastically in the last decade.  I have complete faith in Peter Jackson, and you should too!