One of the golden rules of watching a book-to-film adaptation, as everyone knows, is to not compare. The film should be judged as a separate entity and a piece of art in its own right. In the same vein of thought, comparing prequel and sequel films is an equally muddy trap which leads to nothing other than an unfortunate and relatively unfounded storm of negative criticism.
Currently I find myself in a somewhat abandoned shack in the middle of a critical tempest of comparisons between Peter Jackson’s prequel The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and his previous sequel trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. A comparison that quite frankly has no justification to be made.
The Hobbit suffered a rocky start after various delays, the departure of its original director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), problems with funding and delays in finishing the script, as well as a potential decision to not film in New Zealand and subsequent protests across the nation. In spite of all of these pitfalls, The Hobbit landed on its hairy feet.
The film opens, as one would expect, in the rolling grassy hills of the Shire, where Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is cornered by Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and soon embroiled in a quest to reclaim the Lost Dwarf Kingdom with a company of thirteen gruff dwarves. As with most scenes in the Shire, the exposition was a lengthy slow-burner of saggy set-up, saturated by that ‘quippy’ kind of lame humour that you get sometimes. However, once the various – sadly still barely distinguishable – dwarves finally got on their ponies and got on the road, the epic journey did most surely begin!
Jackson had jam-packed the film with fantastical ogres attempting to spit-roast dwarves, tunnels upon tunnels of bickering goblins, orc chases with Radagast the Brown, incredible duelling stone giants hurling rocks in the Misty Mountains and a finale glorious with its tree-climbing, fire-blazing calamity and majestic saving by the Eagles.
Suffice to say, though there are some hicks in the road, The Hobbit is a marvel of seamless CGI and a beacon of creative imagination which holds its own cinematic ground for sure.
The Hobbit, dir. Peter Jackson (2012, New Zealand)