A key reason I convinced my pal Andy to visit New Zealand with me a-way back in 2009 was to visit sites of filming for Peter Jackson's grand and amazing filmic treatment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. While we were there, at Bag End, so to speak, they were actually prepping for The Hobbit, which was originally proposed as a two-parter. Please visit my blog post about our time in Hobbiton, aka Matamata, NZ, and then return back here.
Above is an ad in the subway for the first of the three "Hobbit' movies, An Unexpected Journey which I saw last night, along with The Stumbler. I couldn't help but lean over to my friend and whisper during the initial Hobbiton moments, "I've been there."
But all that doesn't ultimately matter. Is the film any good? is the question. Emphatically, YES, is my answer. Three hours (well, two hours and 45 minutes) sounded like an eternity, but both of us were surprised when the end came! Events on the screen were fast-paced, interesting and unveiled with clarity. There are some heavy-handed moments and cliche images (like our first view of Galadriel, for example), but you've got to expect some of that in a Peter Jackson epic, I think. Still, the story was engrossing.
I tried to stay away from too much of the movie's publicity, but I think some of the poor reviews I read were written by people who saw a different movie than I did: the dozen dwarves were poorly-differentiated? The relentless action was boring? The plot was muddled and confusing? It strained believability a couple of times? (Okay, that's true.)
Jackson and his crew managed admirably to compress the LOTR story in three movies, but I think the shoe's on the other foot here: how can they stretch the smaller,less grandiose tale of dragon-hunting dwarves into three? The answer is that there's a lot of stuff here that isn't in the book. Part of this involves contextualizing the actions of the dragon Smaug as part of the awaking dark forces that will overrun Middle Earth by the time of Frodo. Another part is simply Jackson's fondness of Tolkien's great invention, the characters, creatures and stories, and his desire to get them all down in film, so to speak.
The next part comes out for Christmas 2013, and the final part the year after that. I don't know if I will be in Korea for part three, but wherever I am, I'll definitely plan to be there.