Well, seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day, it seems appropriate to talk about the things we love; the things that fill our heart with joy; our precioussses. And I must confess I got a real case of the warm fuzzies while watching the trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (official blog here), which was unveiled in late December (just before The Movies was born).
Yes, in exactly 10 months we’ll be able to return to Middle-earth, and in a weird way it feels like going home for Christmas – a return to all that is nostalgically good and familiar. With just that little bit of deep, soul-stirring moodiness thrown in for good measure.
A live-action movie adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic children’s fantasy tale has been a long time coming. Regardless of the massive critical and commercial success that greeted Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy – based of course on Tolkien’s epic, adult-orientated sequel to The Hobbit – legal and financial squabbles have for the past decade or so kept timid hobbit Bilbo Baggins from embarking on a big screen version of his famous quest for self-discovery… and dragon loot.
To cut a long story short, despite Jackson’s lawsuit against LOTR distributors New Line Cinemafor lost revenue, and despite another rival studio, United Artists-MGM, having distribution rights to The Hobbit, eventually everyone came around to the idea of working together on the cinematic prequel. For a slice of the profits pie, no doubt. And even though Jackson was initially too busy to direct- preferring to executive produce while Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy’s Guillermo del Toro happily accepted helming duties – the bearded Kiwi stepped up to the plate when MGM’s financial problems delayed filming in 2010, and Del Toro fell victim to dreaded “scheduling conflicts.”
Principal shooting of The Hobbit finally began in New Zealand in March 2011, with the film having racked up a very impressive cast list. While LOTR’s Ian Holm returns as the older Bilbo Baggins, Sherlock’s Martin Freeman is the real star of the show, playing the younger version of the hesitant hobbit – who, for the record, is hauled from comfortable Bag End to act as a “burglar” for haughty dwarf Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his 12 other dwarven companions… some of whom surprisingly break away from the bulbous, blustery stereotype to inject a little eye candy into proceedings.
Anyway, of the notable newcomers to Middle-earth, there’s Lee Pace and Evangeline Lilly as Mirkwood elves, Billy Connolly as mighty warrior dwarf Dain, Stephen Fry and Luke Evans as human Lake-town inhabitants, and Sherlock himself (and Freeman’s co-star) Benedict Cumberbatch providing the voice and motion-captured performance of Smaug the dragon, the dwarves’ arch-nemesis.
That’s not all though. A good percentage of the old gang is back too, with many popular characters from the LOTR trilogy – both expected and unexpected – also popping up in The Hobbit. These include wizards Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and Saruman the White (Christopher Lee), eleven rulers Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Legolas the eleven archer (Orlando Bloom), as well as Bilbo’s nephew Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and, of course, Andy Serkis’s twisted, scheming, One Ring-loving Gollum.
There are several other things also worth noting about The Hobbit:
1) For better or worse it’s being shot and released in 3D.
2) The novel’s storyline is being split over 2 films, released a year apart: Part 1 – An Unexpected Journey – opens this year and Part 2 – There and Back Again – comes out at the end of 2013.
3) Building on from Point 2, The Hobbit won’t simply depict Bilbo’s adventures from the printed page. The film apparently also functions as a bridge between events in The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. So, yes, audiences will get to witness firsthand what Gandalf does when he abandons Thorin and Bilbo’s Company to complete certain “errands.” And yes, among other things that involves a meeting of the powerful White Council, which consists of immortal magic casters.
For the record, these scene deviations are the only things I’m really nervous about in regards to The Hobbit. I’d rather the film remained laser-focused on Bilbo’s simple, lyrical and “lighter” adventure, instead of potentially over-complicating events with fan service that’s closer in dark tone to the 2001-2003 films. But I guess all we can do is trust in Jackson and his LOTR co-scripters Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh to demonstrate restraint as they create whole scenes guided by only a smattering of sentences in the body of Tolkien’s novels.
These worries aside, I fail to see how The Hobbit isn’t going to be a serious contender – alongside The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises – for the title of Biggest Box Office Hit of 2012.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey releases on 14 December 2012 in the United States. Its story is concluded in The Hobbit: There and Back Again, which opens on 13 December 2013. Although these dates have yet to be confirmed by local distributors, South Africa is evidently getting the films on the exact same dates (according to the IMDB).
Last Updated: February 14, 2012