The Hobbit: A book and a Movie

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit Book CoverOn the 3rd of January JRR Tolkien would have been 120 years old, not quite as old as our hobbit Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. I wonder what he would think of the sensation that his books have become and the wonderful movies crafted by the Kiwi Peter Jackson? I imagine he would be awestruck by the scale of fan-dom and worship of his works.

My relationship with the story and folklore of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings started when I was a teenager. Fortunately I had cousins who were major geeks who adored these books and introduced the books to me. OK, so maybe I’m a geek to, having grown up reading Tin Tin, Asterix, watching the Goodies, Monkey and Dr WHO. Now my job is to pass on this magic to the next generation…

My son was given the 2006 version of The Hobbit for Christmas 2011. I had been waiting for him to finish it before I read it again, but his interest in reading has dropped off over the last 12 months. What do you do to re-ignite kids passion and delight in reading, particularly a 12 year old who used to enjoy it? We have tried almost everything, magazines. graphic novels, getting him to choose books at the book store, no TV, no PC, no electronic games. I’m happy that they are active kids, but reading has been such an important part of my life, that I had hoped that my children would love and appreciate it also.

Fortunately the movie has just been released and this has spurred on my desire to read the book again. I often enjoy re-reading a book after it has been adapted to film, so I can solidify in my mind the elements from the book.

The book did not let me down again, it is such a wonderful adventure and reading it after seeing the movie made me appreciate the skill of Peter Jackson in interpreting the stories that JRR Tolkien had written. The Hobbit itself is a very simple tale which focuses predominantly on Bilbo Baggins and his experiences of the adventure. I was impressed by what a plucky little fellow he is and how brave he was in saving others who really didn’t show him much care or appreciation.

There were very few in-congruent parts of the book versus movies – I found the dwarves far less sympathetic in the book to Bilbo, for example, they ate him out of house and home, but there was certainly no cleaning up in the book. The goblins in the book are more blood thirsty in my opinion, although in film they certainly look repulsive and Barry Humphries’ voice is perfect.

I’m sure the meeting of Bilbo and Gollum is probably everyone’s favourite part of The Hobbit book and it is mine also. I remember reading about Gollum the first time and what a tragic, tortured creature he is and how cunningly he tries to outwit Bilbo in the cave.

At nineteen chapters the book itself is a quick and captivating read, you really don’t want to put it down for long before you pick it up again. It is perfectly aimed towards the younger reader and accommodates us ‘older’ readers beautifully with the nuances of characters. There is enough suggestion in this book of other stories to make you want to know more, hence JRR Tolkien’s writing of histories. Check the biography here that also gives you a guide in which order to read the books.

If you haven’t read the book, but have seen the movie I would still highly recommend you do. There are still enough points of difference and fabulous passages to make the experience worthwhile and still new.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

hobbit-dwarves-poster-610x889I took my sons and a friend (who had never seen any of the LOTR movies) to see this movie last weekend in 3D. The cinema was full and it was mainly adults, likely due to the late session. It  isn’t a short movie, but the time flew. I thought the characterisation of the dwarves was fabulous – all with their unique strengths and foibles. Richard Armitage is well cast as the moody and vengeful Thorin, and I thought Balin was sweet playing the honourable older warrior. The comic touch is also beautifully done, particularly the robust Bombur.

My one caveat for this movie is not the extra content added by Peter Jackson; that has been integrated so well, drawing on other works of Tolkien and adapting it to The Hobbit story smoothly and within context. My issue was with the first 30 minutes or so, in Hobbiton and Bilbo’s house. I’m not sure what it is, but I felt like I was watching a soap opera on television. Not the acting or story, it was the look of the film quality. Was it too many close-ups – which make you appreciate how talented the make up artists are – or was it the crisp imagery and sound? I’m a little confounded by this, as I found it taking part of my attention away from enjoying the movie .  I have noted this in the other LOTR movies, that as the journeys progress from Hobbiton that the movies become darker and more serious; perhaps this is a deliberate atmospheric touch?

But what of Bilbo Baggins and how well his story is told? Martin Freeman is perfect as Bilbo, whilst I think he plays a fairly similar character in many acting roles and I did at times wonder, ‘is he too well known to be Bilbo?’ I did buy into him as Bilbo Baggins of Bag End. The poor little Hobbit, led on a journey to redeem a kingdom from a tragic past and an evil foe. For me the most masterful stroke of any of Peter Jackson’s retellings was the meeting of Bilbo and Gollum; a truly breathtaking and exceptionally well executed bringing to life of the book. The darting, vulnerable and confused eyes of Gollum were so believable. Amazing!

We all loved the tantalising glimpses of Smaug and I cannot wait to see that part portrayed, but I guess it will need to wait for the last movie. Hopefully next years movie will include the wood elves and Beorn – that should be fun!

Oh and the best bit after seeing the movie, my son is desperate to read the book now. Hallelujah!

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