I don’t remember when I first read J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit. I know I was young. My mother had bought a copy at the used book sale the Stanly County Library had once a year in my hometown of Albemarle, NC. It was an older copy. The cover colors primarily green, blue, black, and white, and Tolkien’s dwarf runes wrapped around the cover.
I also don’t remember how many times I read it. (Please bear in mind that I was an avid reader who had devoured Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables by the time I was eleven, so reading a book multiple times was not out of the ordinary for me.) But I do know that I read it so many times, I finally deciphered the runes on the cover (no small feat for a child) and proceeded to write letters to my friends and family in them. Upon realizing that others could not read my letters, I had to start supplying cheat sheets.
I suppose the point of all of this personal back-story is to let you know what a special place Tolkien’s Middle Earth has in my heart, especially this book. So when I heard that Peter Jackson was adapting again, you can imagine my excitement.
I was not disappointed.
A few weeks ago, I asked my whole family to come with Mike and I to see the film. It was important to me. My family went every Christmas from 2001-2003 to see each installment of Lord of the Rings, and while three Christmases may not be enough to establish a tradition, it was sufficient for me. Last night, we experienced The Hobbit again, for the first time, because this time we could actually see it unfolding.
If you have read my post on the adaptation of Life of Pi, you already know my definition and philosophy of adaptation. And once again, Jackson and his writing crew have succeeded brilliantly. Myself an avid fan, I did not find any detail to be out of place or off-putting. It is quite true that Jackson and crew supplemented An Unexpected Journey with Tolkien lore that was not present in The Hobbit. But that lore is present in books such as The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. Jackson simply took other material and tied it in to round out the story. I also wonder if this was done to stretch a book that is less than one third the length of the entire Lord of the Rings sage into a trilogy of approximately the same viewing time. And I wonder if it was for financial purposes. That said, I don’t really care. The more Tolkien, the better in my opinion.
I have heard much discussion regarding Jackson’s choice to shoot in 48 fps, and many critics have disagreed with this decision. I cannot speak to the frame rate at all. We did not see the film in IMAX, so the version we saw was not projected in 48 fps. The look of the film did not create any problems for me. So if you feel that the higher frame rate will bother you, just see it in a theater that doesn’t project it. It will look like a normal 24 fps film.
From the moment Gandalf approaches Bilbo to the moment that the company gazes across leagues at the Lonely Mountain, I am struck with Jackson’s ability to pick up on details that make the film echo the book. Examples include working chapter titles into dialogue, picking out key bits of dialogue that are most memorable (“We hates it! We hates it forever!”), and allowing us to hear the novel’s songs sung for the first time.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a beautiful adaptation and a wonderfully entertaining film. Do yourself a favor, escape this world for a while, and experience the wonder of real storytelling from the two masters – Tolkein and Jackson.