Title: The Hobbit
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Rating: 3 Stars
I can never forget the first time I picked up a Tolkien novel - never. I was only thirteen, but I read through the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy, appendixes included, in just eight days. Yes,eight days. As you can imagine, I did nothing but read those books, for they kept me utterly riveted to the page. The Hobbit, on the other hand, took me over eight weeks to read. In fact, it felt like a solid eight months. Sure, I have more work now that I did when I was thirteen and less free time to read, but for a novel as short as The Hobbit is, eight weeks (or more!) is a looong time. Needless to say, I never thought I could be disappointed by a Tolkien novel, but I was wrong.
You should, straight up, that I worship the very ground Tolkien walks on. I've read nearly all his books, from The Lord of the Rings, to The Silmarillion, to The Children of Hurin. Thus, for me to say that The Hobbit was disappointingly boring, believe me, it was boring. In fact, if you plan to read a Tolkien novel, do not start with The Hobbit. Instead, start with Lord of the Rings. I say this for a few reasons, most notable because The Hobbit was written for children - and this, I suspect, is the root cause of my disappointment with it.
The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy filled with darkness, with desperation, with fierce hope, and courage, and strength. It is masterful, it is genius, and it is a legendary timepiece of literature at its finest. The Hobbit, on the other hand, is a rather comical, bumbling tale of Bilbo Baggins who finds himself accompanying a group of dwarves on their quest to retrieve their treasure that is currently being hoarded by the dragon Smaug. On their journey, they meet a variety of creatures and obstacles and, as usual, Tolkien excels in his imagination. It never ceases to amaze me the depth of creativity that he uses in his stories and his writing quite literally transports you to Middle Earth - the only reason I am giving this novel three stars.
Nevertheless, in terms of character-building, this novel suffers. Although it has fewer characters than the entire Lord of the RingsTrilogy, I felt this one lacked more of everything. First we have the dwarves, the majority of whom we can forget for their names only appear again in passing and as individuals, they possess no character. Gandalf, while remaining to be the enigmatic wizard we knew and loved from The Lord of the Rings, seems to only exist to save everyone from doom. Bilbo, as a hobbit, only dreams of food and warm fires, until, of course, Gandalf leaves and he suddenly becomes the savior of all the dwarves. Needless to say, there is a severe lack of growth which I found disappointing - the book is, after all, called The Hobbit! We barely get a glimpse into the actual hobbit's growth or impact of this journey on him.
In many ways, The Hobbit serves as a means to better The Lord of the Rings. Certain scenes, such as Bilbo's meeting with Gollum and his ultimate possession of The Ring was very interesting while others, such as his meeting with the dragon Smaug, felt all too hyped-up and anti-climactic. Thus, while The Hobbit is a must-read for all fans of Tolkien, or just all nit-picky readers who refuse to watch the movie before reading the book, I wouldn't recommend it as the starting point for any fantasy lover. It was a relatively slow, boring, and forgettable tale that I know I won't be returning to in the future. I fear that this will be one of the few moments in life where I will find myself admitting that the movie is far, FAR better than the book. I can't see how it can't be, especially since more time is spent developing the characters themselves. While The Hobbit was a disappointing read for sure, I still reveled in being back in Middle Earth and if there's any reason to read this, then it's that. Truly, there is no place that feels quite as home as Middle Earth does - for me, at least.
Title: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Director: Peter Jackson
Rating: 5 Stars
What makes "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" such a remarkable film is, first and foremost, the way it has been shot. I saw this film in 3D and the vision was remarkable. It truly felt as if I was in Middle Earth myself, not sitting in a theater seat with a giant bag of popcorn in front of my face. Yet, what I liked best about Jackson's movie is that he added his own flair into it. As I mentioned before, we only witness what happens to Bilbo in The Hobbit. We sense no desperation from the dwarves to reach The Lonely Mountain except for a greed of gold and Thorin, the leader of the dwarves, has no personality whatsoever. In the movie, however, Jackson begins by telling us the tale of the dwarf kingdom that Smaug razes to the ground and overtakes; he tells us of Thorin, son of Thrain, and his childhood of watching his grandfather and father perish before his eyes and lose the kingdom that he is the rightful heir to; he tells us of the orc that kills Thrain and renders Thorin an orphan; he tells us of how Thorin builds a new life for the dwarves he is responsible for and how he bides his time, waiting to reclaim his lost home. Thus, in a matter of minutes, Thorin becomes, to us, as significant, heroic, and great a leader as Aragorn is.
Furthermore, the troop of dwarves that follow Thorin become much like the beloved Fellowship, helping one another, adding Bilbo to their circle of friends, and joining together for a greater cause, all under the wise leadership of Thorin. Perhaps, best of all, however, is how Thorin underestimates Bilbo and how, in reality, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a tale of friendship where the novel was not. It is the story of how Bilbo comes to find in himself a greater courage and power than he thought possible and the general theme of home, of a place to belong, is so aptly felt. Jackson adds on a storyline that wasn't prevalent in the novel, but one that works perfectly with the plot, never changing the actual adventures that Bilbo faces. Instead, he only alters them ever-so-slightly to give them more depth and shows us what occurs to Thorin and Gandalf whenever they are separated from Bilbo.
In this manner, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a long film, but one that doesn't feel that way. In fact, I would have sat in that theater for nine hours if it meant watching the entire film and now I am itching to at least see the trailer for the next movie, which I am certain will be just as bold, brave, and remarkable as the first. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a must-see for all fans of the "Lord of the Rings" movies or books and even if you're not a fan, I'd encourage you to give it a shot. In my eyes, it's the best movie of the year - even better than "The Dark Knight Rises", which is saying a lot since I am crazy about Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan and just Batman in general. Believe me, this is one movie you'll want to go see in the theater again and again and again - it is like nothing you've ever experienced before.