Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Hobbit

It’s wonderful to be back in Middle Earth
So does it live up to all the hype and hoopla? And then some. Was it faithful to The Hobbit as set forth by J. R. R. Tolkien? Well…as much as can be cinematically expected.  Some characters were missing, like the woodsman/bear guy. And some from the LOTR trilogy were thrown in for continuity, like Frodo, Galadriel and Saruman.  But in the hands of Peter Jackson, the experience was pure Tolkien.

For Bilbo Baggins, tucked into his homey Hobbit hole with his pipe and well-stocked larder, the adventure begins when he’s singled out by a wizard called Gandalf to act as a burglar. A burglar? That isn’t well explained in this first installment. The Hobbit is small, quiet, resourceful and, well, unexpected. The dwarves’ quest, which Gandalf is aiding, will at some point need some extreme sneakery.  And Bilbo fills the bill. The whole thing is hardly fair to Bilbo, but for some reason Gandalf feels he needs to see a bit more of the world. You know - experience hideous orcs, assorted goblins, wargs, stone giants and the like.

Quest stories are always fraught with possibilities: reversals, revelations, cliff-hanging dangers, unexpected encounters, you name it. This tale has it in spades. The special appeal of this one is that the main character, Bilbo the Hobbit, has the fortitude to rise up with sword in hand when he absolutely must. But he remains the genuine, unassuming little homebody that he was before setting out.
Which isn’t to say he doesn’t grow from the experience. His first encounter with a wizard puzzles him greatly. The intrusion of the dwarves was distasteful at best. But as he travels with them, his astute little mind wraps around the meaning of the quest and the qualities of his companions. Bonds of respect and friendship form.

There’s a lot of warmth in this action-plus movie. As before, it’s set in the breathless panoramic beauty of New Zealand. You want to see this. We all need a little Middle Earth in our souls.

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