The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Directed by Peter Jackson
Review by Leonard Freeman
We all want to go back, which is why sequels/prequels have lives. And The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from director-producer Peter Jackson of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is no exception. Filmdom is expanding the thinner volume of The Hobbit into a trilogy because — well, because this sells tickets; and some are critiquing the film on that basis. But in fact it delivers well.
Visually it is wonderful — partly by going to a new 48 frames per second instead of the standard 24 — but the technology is to the side. The core is a story that has touched hearts for 75 years of the home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) pulled out of his supposed comfort to find himself at the center of the larger story beyond. “Home is now behind you. The world is ahead,” the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) tells him.
Ostensibly the quest is by a group of dwarves to get back to their homeland mountain that was taken years ago by the dragon Smaug, but beneath lie other tales that will become the heart of the Rings trilogy, in particular Bilbo’s encounter with the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis) and the precious ring.
Jackson has fleshed out The Hobbit partly with extensive scenic scans of Middle-earth geography but more with story lines from Tolkien’s “background” work, The Silmarillion, that evoke the great moral battle that is to come.
The Hobbit’s lessons resonate warmly for Christian hearts. Tolkien’s Catholic faith imbued the world he created: a place where simple, everyday people can be heroes, where commonplace choices can change destinies, where “loyalty, honor, and a willing heart” matter more than naked power; in short, a world where movements and purposes not immediately apparent shape the great moral struggle of life.
The Rev. Leonard Freeman, former director of communications for Trinity Wall Street and Washington National Cathedral, has written film reviews for more than 40 years.