Reviewed by Sam Robinson
Rated M. Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett.
I have a confession to make. It wasn’t until last year that I first ventured to Middle-earth. For years I’d been avoiding the tattered thick novels by J.R.R. Tolkien on my parents’ bookshelf, as well as my friends’ extended 9-disc editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But in preparation for the new film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I watched the original trilogy and really enjoyed it. And it turns out that The Shire is more than just a place across the river from my old home in Sydney, and Gandalf and Dumbledore are different characters after all.
An Unexpected Journey revolves around a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who one night finds his home invaded by a bakers dozen of dwarves. They raid his pantry like a bunch of raccoons, but it’s all part of Gandalf’s plan to get Bilbo to join them on a quest to reclaim their lost home – Lonely Mountain – now inhabited by a dragon and more gold coins than Scrooge McDuck could swim in.
To be honest, An Unexpected Journey is a very different beast to the original trilogy. The locations are the same, and there are crossover characters, but the vibe is much more whimsical and comical and can shift into a sombre moment in an instant. The traveling company encounter orcs, goblins and elves, but for some reason don’t borrow any of the latter’s shampoo. Freeman is excellent as an often reluctant Bilbo but I found myself tired of McKellen’s Gandalf suddenly appearing at the most opportune of moments.
As enjoyable as the three-hour film is, it does drag on at points. The novel that this film is based on is quite short and director Peter Jackson had planned to make this into two movies, but it has now become a trilogy of its own. At points I was getting frustrated at the montages of sweeping helicopter shots which scream ‘New Zealand tourism!’ It could have easily been trimmed by half-an-hour.
Bilbo is called to an unexpected journey to play a role in a party that he didn’t quite choose to sign up for. And as the movie progresses, we see that it served a greater purpose than he or Gandalf could have imagined. As Christians we are called by God to be his people, and to surrender our lives to Jesus’ rule. In Matthew 8:20, Jesus tells of what our journey will be like when we follow him.
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
We won’t be sent to give dwarves rescue from a dragon, but journeying with Jesus means that life won’t always be comfortable, and we’ve been called to something far greater than Bilbo’s quest – life with Jesus as Lord.
I’m looking forward to the second instalment this December. I’m giving The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey four out of five stars.