Ever since it was announced that Peter Jackson was going to bring ‘The Hobbit’ to life on the big screen, I had been waiting excitedly for it. I finally saw the first installment, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ a couple of weeks ago. And the verdict is… Good but not as enjoyable as the Lord of the Rings movies. Let me explain why.
I’ll start at the beginning. I got into the whole Tolkien fantasy world initially thanks to Led Zeppelin songs. Being a big fan of classic rock and Zeppelin in particular, I was intrigued by the fascinating, otherworldly lyrics in songs like ‘The Battle of Evermore’, ‘Stairway to Heaven’, ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ and ‘Ramble On’ among others. And then I picked up the book called ‘The Hobbit’. Initially, the peculiar style of storytelling seemed a bit childish for my taste (the funny names of the various dwarves didn’t make it any better) but I soon warmed up to it.
At around the same time, the Lord of the Rings movies started getting released in theatres one by one. Having just read The Hobbit, it was easy to follow these movies as a continuation of the story and I absolutely loved them all. Sure, I had my preferences. ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ was wonderful as a visual introduction to middle earth. Before that, middle earth had only existed in my imagination. ‘The Two Towers’ was great for its excellently done battle scenes. And ‘Return of the King’ was a grand finale, albeit way too long and dragging towards the end. But anyway, I loved the setting, the characters, the lines… everything! This was the first big fantasy epic that I could relate to, having not grown up on Star Wars. Also, the LoTR movies seemed a lot more real to me with a sort of historical/mythological flavour to them, as opposed to Star Wars which I always felt had way too many weird looking characters that I could never relate to. Call it personal bias or opinion, whatever.
So my expectations were sky-high for ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’. But it didn’t quite wow me like the earlier movies did. The perfect way to describe it can be encapsulated in this solitary, classic Bilbo line “… like butter scraped over too much bread”. Compared to the very detailed Lord of the Rings books, The Hobbit is actually not a difficult read. To stretch just one third of that book into a 3 hour long movie seemed a bit too much. And I could tell that I was losing interest pretty early due to the ambling pace of the first half.
‘Riddles in the dark’ with Gollum was one of the first truly interesting portions in the movie. And I did enjoy the Misty Mountains song that the dwarves sing in unison before setting foot on their adventure. But I did not care at all for that weird forest wizard, Radagast and felt that this unnecessary character introduction only ended up slowing down the plot. Not to mention, the pointless discussion between Gandalf and the other ‘elders’ of middle earth at Rivendell. My wife had the funniest observation here… in some of the scenes she said it looked like Gandalf and Galadriel were having an affair! That in itself should give you an indication of how much they have stretched out this movie beyond what was needed for a Part I of III.
Nonetheless, it was still enjoyable overall because the original story is still close to my heart. And there is no doubt that I will ardently wait for and watch the next installment in this epic series.