An Unexpected Journey, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bilbo Baggins, courage, dragon, elves, Evangeline Lilly, Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien, Martin Freeman, Middle Earth, Peter Jackson, Radagast the Brown, Smaug, Tauriel, the company of Thorin Oakenshield, The Desolation of Smaug, The Hobbit
The first time I picked up The Hobbit, I couldn’t have been older than ten. I have a feeling that my maternal grandparents gave it to me, but I honestly can’t remember where I got it from or whether it was a gift for a special occasion. Interesting fact, it didn’t actually say “the hobbit” on the cover, but the book was titled Hobbiten. Since I grew up in Sweden, it was obviously translated into Swedish. (Everyone in Sweden can speak English very well, but of course one cannot expect a Scandinavian child to fully know it yet.)
After hearing several accounts on how people connected with the novel and how it sparked their love for literature and influenced their childhood, I feel a bit dumb for not being one of those people. For me, it was Harry Potter that pushed my cerebral wheels into motion… but that’s another story for another time. Other than being enthralled by the book cover — the Swedish version (at the time) was a picture of Smaug, lying on the treasure, with a smoldering golden red heat illuminating from him. Until I bought a new copy about a week ago, the only pieces of the story that still remained in my mind were;
(1) The game of riddles between Bilbo and Gollum, especially the instant when the little hobbit feels the ring inside his pocket.
(2) When the company of Thorin Oakenshield and Gandalf are taking shelter in the trees from the Wargs and the goblins, but the fire they used to protect themselves with is now being used against them.
Maybe if I had read it more than once, who knows. Or perhaps the experience would have been different if someone had read it with me. Even though it’s “just a book,” diving into that world of Middle Earth can be quite scary. Since last weekend, I have been reading the book, which was long overdue, and when Tolkien describes the caves inside the mountain and the goblins living there, I get creeped out. Imagine a kid reading this story. The reason I finally returned to this story was because I was curious to see why this little group of angry Tolkien fans criticize Peter Jackson’s movies so harshly. (Yeah, some people really hate “An unexpected journey” and “The desolation of Smaug.”)
Last night I finished chapter eight, ‘Flies and Spiders,’ and yes, I can see why people are upset, because Bilbo Baggins is a fucking badass in that chapter (such a raging badass!), and they cut the forest part rather short in the movie. So, yes, I see it.
But keep some things in mind: Peter Jackson is using much more than this one book. Thing is, Tolkien was planning to write an expanded version of The Hobbit, but he never got to finish it and the notes thereof were later published in the appendix of The Return of the King. Jackson has used these notes in order to go deeper into the history of Middle Earth and the way I see it, he is also intending to give us various points of view of the way people live and the politics and the demographics. It’s fascinating. And it’s rare that I can enjoy a book and then the movie(s) based on the book separately. Remember that.
[skip ahead to 16:39]
Additionally, Jackson is bringing other exciting elements to the table, without diminishing any of the characters. You should hear me rant about the Harry Potter movies, most of which I hate with a passion, because no one stopped for a second to truly develop some important key characters: like Ginny. In the books, she’s cool, fun, intelligent and you can really see why Harry likes her. They completely fuck that up. She’s just plain awkward! I don’t understand why… okay, again, for another time. Anyway… for instance, despite that Bilbo doesn’t do the teasing and not as many cunning tricks or as much fighting in the forest, I think they still portray his courage and badass-ness in other scenes and using other methods. My favorite one of his brave acts is the one where Bilbo faces the dragon. Dude’s got nerves of steel. I might be wrong and I haven’t gotten that far in the book yet, but I’ve heard from people that in the book, Bilbo keeps the ring on, thereby remaining invisible, as he talks with Smaug. That change, that little detail, says a lot about the character.
[UPDATE 3/4/14: Bilbo Baggins faces the dragon with the ring on, twice, but I nevertheless think their encounters stand fairly awesome and clever, and equally dramatic to the movies. Perhaps I should switch those two around, but oh well, you get what I’m saying. I did see the movies first.]
Then remember also that if it wasn’t for Peter Jackson, we wouldn’t have the awesome Radagast the Brown, who is only mentioned in the book. (Let’s also appreciate Sylvester McCoy for wearing that brilliant black coat when he’s not in costume. And that he can bird-whistle!)
[UPDATE 3/4/14: A friend of mine has met Sylvester McCoy; I’m so~ jealous!]
To wrap this up, I’m putting up some videos for you to enjoy. I’ve had some geeky days previously, watching many interviews and behind-the-scenes stuff. I won’t put up the production dairy videos here; if you’re a fan like me, you can easily find them online.