THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY/THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG. A DOUBLE REVIEW OF FANTASTICAL AND PERILOUS MIDDLE-EARTH SHENANIGANS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. (2012) DIRECTED BY PETER JACKSON. BASED ON THE BOOK BY J.R.R. TOLKIEN. STARRING MARTIN FREEMAN, IAN HOLM, IAN MCKELLEN, RICHARD ARMITAGE, AIDAN TURNER, JAMES NESBITT, ELIJAH WOOD, ANDY SERKIS, HUGO WEAVING, MANU BENNETT, CATE BLANCHETT, BARRY HUMPHRIES, ORLANDO BLOOM, BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, LEE PACE AND CHRISTOPHER LEE.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG. (2013) DIRECTED BY PETER JACKSON. BASED ON THE BOOK BY J.R.R. TOLKIEN. STARRING MARTIN FREEMAN, IAN HOLM, IAN MCKELLEN, RICHARD ARMITAGE, AIDAN TURNER, JAMES NESBITT, LEE PACE, STEPHEN FRY, MANU BENNETT, CATE BLANCHETT, ORLANDO BLOOM, EVANGELINE LILLY AND LUKE EVANS.
These two films are the first and second instalments of a trilogy of films directed by Peter Jackson, who roughly a decade earlier had already given us possibly the best movie trilogy of all time. I’m referring of course to the three THE LORD OF THE RINGS films, which could never be bettered, not even by Mr. Jackson himself.
It’s no insult to the genius director to say that, by the way. His trilogy of films based on Tolkien’s book THE HOBBIT is a fabulously gripping and entertaining watch. It’s just that TLOTR is so good that nothing was ever really going to top it. THE HOBBIT films certainly gave us lovers of the original trilogy something to live for again. I’ll never forget those thrilling hours sitting in the darkened cinema in late December or early January way back at the turn of the millenium watching the battle for Middle Earth unfold on the screen in front of me. Utterly unforgettable.
THE HOBBIT films, both THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY and THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, are set in Middle Earth sixty years before all the stuff that happens in TLOTR. Bilbo Baggins, wonderfully played by Martin Freeman, is younger and not quite as crotchety as his older self. He lives a nice quiet life in the picturesque Shires and minds his own bloody business, just like we all should do, haha.
Bilbo, quite against his better judgement, is persuaded by Gandalf the Wizard to accompany a company of thirteen Dwarves (not the SNOW WHITE kind, the Middle Earth kind!) on a dangerous quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain, their former home, and the magnificent treasure of Erebor, from the deadly dragon, Smaug.
The scenes in which the Dwarves all descend on a horrified Bilbo in his cosy little Hobbit-Hole and literally eat him out of house and home before tidying up perfectly while singing a song are among my favourite of the first film. The nomadic Dwarves are kind-hearted but plain-speaking. They’re also a bit coarse and rough around the edges and probably not Bilbo’s usual cup of tea at all. He’s not much of a one for company, you see, especially when they didn’t phone ahead first.
See, Bilbo’s a lot like me. We both like our armchairs, our books and our home comforts. I’m not much of a one for going on adventures either. When his ‘adventure-bone’ is tickled by Gandalf and he commits to going on this highly perilous and probably even ultimately pointless trip, you just know that the Dwarves are going to end up knocking a few of his sharp pointy corners off before the journey’s over.
The strange little company spend the first film journeying to their faraway destination, and the second film initially trying to gain access to the Lonely Mountain and then pissing off the sleeping dragon to the point where he’s forced to wake up from his nap and start getting seriously proactive.
Along the way, Bilbo, Gandalf and the brave little Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, have to face any number of mythical and fantastical opponents, all of whom want to impede their progress. There are hideous, unscrupulous Orcs and toothsome Wargs again. They’re brilliant! There are Cockney-talking trolls, Stone Giants and Dame Edna Everage. As the Goblin King, I mean! Not as herself, haha.
Bilbo even meets Gollum and has his first, highly significant, encounter with a certain Ring, if you know what I mean. Bilbo’s game of riddles with the ‘tricksy’ Gollum is funny and witty and it just makes you want to scoop the bony, knobbly-spined creature into your arms and cuddle him to bits, he’s so sweet in it. I’m talking about Gollum here, by the way, not Bilbo! That’s not to say that he’s not cute in it too though, mind you…
We’ve got the truly horrendous giant spiders of Mirkwood which, if you’re in any way arachnaphobic, you won’t be able to stomach. They’re revolting, with their giant egg-filled sacs (what a disgusting word!) and long hairy legs. Kudos, as always, to the creators of these amazing creatures. We’ve also got posh Stephen Fry as the odious, self-serving ruler of the dreary-looking Laketown and Benedict Cumberbatch as the nasty Necromancer and the voice of Smaug The Dragon.
We’ve got Smaug himself, of course, one of the best cinema dragons I’ve ever seen, if not the best. His underground cavern, in which he is disturbed by Bilbo & Co. noisily searching for the powerful jewel the Arkenstone, is a sight for sore eyes. My favourite beastie of all, however, has the greatest name for a villain of all time: Azog The Defiler…!
He’s just such a brilliant character. Pure evil, this Orc war-chief, also known as the Pale Orc, has had it in for Thorin ever since he fought with and beheaded Thorin’s grandfather Thror in a great battle years ago. We see a bit of this battle and it’s terrific. The battles are always my favourite bits of these films. Azog’s huge, he swings a massively deadly mace and is completely devoid of compassion or feeling. Thorin Oakenshield would like a pop at his Grand-daddy’s murderer himself, however, so the stage is set for some major revenge-getting…
Does Bilbo earn his stripes, by the way, and also the respect of the Dwarves who in the beginning doubted his ability to stay the course? Will Thorin Oakenshield grudgingly admit that maybe the Hobbit is a good guy to have around in a crisis after all? All will be revealed in the fullness of time, folks. Don’t forget that there’s a third equally briliant film in the trilogy, THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES, in which all will be revealed.
My one gripe with the trilogy is that the Dwarves are somewhat- how to put this delicately?- pulchritudinously-challenged. Which is to say that, um, they’re, ah, quite ugly. There’s no-one for me to fancy in it, sadly. I’m not into Elves, unfortunately, so Legolas, hot as he is, kind of leaves me cold. Luke Evans as Bard doesn’t quite make up for the lack of a sweaty, stubbly Aragorn.
Christopher Lee makes one of his last screen appearances ever in AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, however, so that fact alone makes the trilogy memorable. It’s a hell of a trilogy. I wish there was something of Tolkien’s left for Peter Jackson to make another trilogy out of. Did he leave a will, maybe, or a shopping list or a note to the cleaner? I don’t care what it is, I’ll go and see it. Me and my medium popcorn. (Why medum…? Because even Homer Simpson thinks that movie popcorn’s gotten too big…!)
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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