True confessions: I was in line at 9:15. That’s p.m. For a midnight showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
At least I wasn’t wearing elf ears.
I’ve been a devoted fan of Tolkien’s Middle Earth since my mother read the books aloud to us on long road trips, long before director Peter Jackson got his hands on the story. The three Lord of the Rings movies were released during the three years that I was in grad school, studying screenwriting. I was delighted with the haunting, well-scripted distillation of the three books for the screen — so you can imagine how excited I was for a chance to return to Middle Earth on screen.
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Martin Freeman is utterly believable as the comfort-loving Bilbo Baggins, ripped from his cozy fireside and launched on *gasp* an adventure. Ian McKellen reprises (pre-prises?) his role as the wizard Gandalf, sage and yet uncertain in the face of a growing evil he doesn’t understand. And Andy Serkis returns as Gollum for a memorable game of riddles with Bilbo, while the hobbit is lost underground and discovers the infamous One Ring. This sequence, near the end of the film, is by far the most gripping moment in the story.
The movie also begins on a strong note when the thirteen dwarves show up unexpectedly (at Gandalf’s behest) to hire Bilbo as their burglar on a quest to recover their home and treasure from the dragon Smaug. Peter Jackson manages to navigate the pitfalls of thirteen dwarves, one hobbit, and one wizard in a small hobbit hole — clearly introducing each character and capturing both the humor and the haunting moments from the book.
That said, the movie is far from perfect. In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the stakes are excruciatingly high. Failure in the quest to destroy the Ring will result in the destruction of all Middle Earth. The source material is so lengthy that the screenplays were forced to whittle the story down to the most essential moments, moving at a breathless pace. The Hobbit, written first and with a much lighter tone, simply doesn’t carry the same weight. Jackson attempts to give it a similar epic scope as the original three movies by including material Tolkien added later in the Appendices of Lord of the Rings.
While I appreciate that the additions are true to Tolkien’s world, they don’t merit what will be a trio of three-hour movies based on one, fairly short novel. I believe there’s a brilliant two-hour movie in The Hobbit. At two hours and forty-nine minutes, it meanders on occasion. Jackson takes advantage of his credit with a built-in fan base to extend his CG action sequences for the sake of eye candy, rather than good storytelling. Some of the backstory feels shoe-horned into place as necessary set up for the coming two movies.
For all its flaws, though, the screen adaptation gets one vital thing right. The book only needed one broad character arc for Bilbo Baggins. Three movies require three distinct (though co-joined) character journeys for the hobbit. Jackson chose to create a through-line for Bilbo that, while it doesn’t exist in the book, feels true to Tolkien’s character. As a home-loving hobbit, Bilbo finds himself adrift and off balance as he’s thrust on a journey into the wild. The dwarves, especially their leader and rightful king, Thorin Oakenshield, have been a homeless people for several generations, used to the hard life of wanderers. They don’t take Bilbo seriously, even resenting him, as they expect him to flee back to his comforts at every chance. But by the end of the film, when Bilbo has a chance to give up on the quest, he instead chooses to stay and follow through. He continues not for himself, but because he understands the value of having a place to belong, and wishes to help the dwarves secure their own home.
As screenwriters ourselves, my husband and I can analyze the technicalities of structure and character ad nauseum. But the question that haunted us as we left the theatre at 3 a.m. didn’t have to do with scene breaks or the nuances of dialogue. Instead, I wondered: Where am I being called to leave the safe and cozy nest I’ve created for myself? What adventures am I ignoring that could change me forever … if I dared to say “yes”?
Welcome to Ungrind!
Do you want to be inspired, motivated, and equipped to live the everyday story of your life well?
If so, you’re in the right place. Whether you need encouragement in your relationships or in your faith, I hope you’ll find the transparent voices of mentors and friends here at Ungrind.
So, grab a cup of coffee and keep reading. We're so glad you're here!
Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
Get Our Free Ebook!
To Those Who Want To Be Truly Happy: Stop Chasing Happiness
Chasing happiness isn't all it's cracked up to be. Here are a few reasons why.
How the Psalms Speak to Our Emotions
The Psalms is a book that's rich with the reality of what life's like in this fallen world. Here are...
3 Ways to Navigate Personality Differences
Sometimes personality differences can wear on us. Here are three ways we can navigate them in a loving manner.
Surprised By ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’
If you haven't seen this film, God may speak to your heart through it in ways you weren't expecting.
The Wedding Ring
Are you struggling in your marriage? Here's how a wedding ring helped one wife fight for her marriage.
5 Ways to Live an Out-of-Control Life
Here are 5 ways to let go of control and trust your present and your future to God.
5 Creative Places to Find Prayer Accountability
Do you want to pray more, but are easily distracted? Here are some practical ways to stay focused.
What Women Are Saying
-- Sarah Martin, author of Stress Point: Thriving Through Your Twenties in a Decade of Drama
"Real life is not always pleasant. Every marriage experiences disappointments, misunderstandings, sickness and financial crisis. Ashleigh doesn’t camouflage the pain in her own marriage, and offers practical ideas on how to walk through the difficulties and find intimacy on the journey. If you are anything like me, I predict that as you read, you too will find yourself laughing, wiping tears, and saying 'Oh, yes.'"
-- Gary Chapman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages
We are a member of the Amazon affiliate program and regularly use affiliate links. If you purchase an item from an Amazon link we provide, we will receive a small referral commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. We only share books, music, and products that our writers personally have used and highly recommend.
Faith4 years ago
When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds
Motherhood4 years ago
Surviving a Strong-Willed Child
Faith5 years ago
7 Ways to Create A Family Altar
Friendship6 years ago
Beyond the Registry: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Expectant Parents
Relationships8 months ago
5 Ways to Teach Your Child to Hear God
Marriage6 years ago
4 Reasons I’m Not Facebook Friends With My Husband
Everyday Faith5 years ago
6 Simple Ways to Give Thanks in the Thick of It
Articles6 years ago
10 Ways Life is Like a Box of Chocolates
Articles7 years ago
How to Lift Up the One You Love
Articles5 years ago
Relationships1 year ago
Facing Our Motherhood Fears
Digging Into Scripture5 months ago
How the Psalms Speak to Our Emotions