Yes! Finally, "The Hobbit" is now available at redbox! So, we checked it out last weekend and enjoyed it with our son, who loved it. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." by Peter Jackson based (loosely) on the novel of the same title by J. R. R. Tolkien. It is the prequel to "The Lord of the Rings Trilogy" (in case you didn't know). I read this book right after high school when "The Fellowship of the Ring" was about to come out in theaters. Immediately afterward I read the rest of the series.
I, for one, love Tolkien's elaborate and poetic storytelling and enjoyed the books immensely. However, since I read the book over ten years ago, I couldn't remember it all with perfect clarity. After watching the film version I felt like I needed to re-read the book; just to verify whether what's in the film's plot was an invention of Tolkien or a creative liberty taken by Jackson.
The film starts off with old Bilbo Baggins writing his memories of his adventures from his youth to leave for Frodo after he's gone. (This is supposed to take place before Bilbo's birthday party in "The Fellowship of the Ring"). From there we go back into the tale and see Bilbo as a young man meeting Gandalf as he passes by his home. The conversation turns to adventuring and somehow, without even knowing it, Bilbo agrees to go on a quest. Later that night random Dwarves-- whom he's never met before in his life--start showing up at his door and inviting themselves in for dinner. Finally, when Bilbo is at his wits end, Gandalf arrives to explain everything. It turns out Bilbo is to be the 13th member of this company, sworn to take back their home, Erebor, from the evil dragon, Smaug. From there we go on a whirlwind adventure into unknown parts of Middle Earth. Along the way we learn the history of the Dwarf Prince, Thorin Oakenshield, and his fallen kingdom. I remember some of this from the book, but then they tell of the Dwarf Prince and all the homeless Dwarves trying to take back the ancient Dwarf kingdom called Moira. Only problem is there are Orcs already squatting there. So a battle ensues involving a legendary Pale Orc astride a white Warg (Giant Wolf) who has sworn to end the Dwarf royal line of Thorin.
However, he doesn't succeed in killing Thorin because the Dwarves end up winning the fight but not regaining the mines of Moira (this is all back story). Before the company of 13 finally reaches The Lonely Mountain, Bilbo the Hobbit accomplishes many things. First, he saves the Dwarves from being eaten by Trolls. Second, he escapes capture from an Orc hunting party. Then, he stumbles into the Elvish kingdom of Rivendale. Then, he escapes from the Goblin fortress. And finally, he saves Thorin's life. Not to mention he wins a magic ring of invisibility from Gollum in a game of riddles. For such a humble little fellow, Bilbo Baggins proves to be quite the hero in this tale.
As far as the movie goes, the production value is just as excellent as "The Fellowship of the Ring". The story is well told if only a bit off course from time to time. The only things that really bothered me were the parts that turn out aren't in the book. The Pale Orc astride a white Warg is a Jackson invention to give us more of a definite villain. In the book it was always Smaug the dragon. However, since Peter Jackson decided to break this tale up into a trilogy, Smaug seems more like a mythical creature instead of an imminent threat. Also, the whole thing with Moira confuses me. This is why: in "The Fellowship of the Ring", Gimli, son of Glóin, takes Frodo and the Fellowship through the mines of Moira expecting to meet his kinfolk who rule there. However, they find out that the Dwarves are all dead, and Balrog, the fire demon, and his orc minions, now inhabit it. Now if "The Hobbit" happened quite some time before "The Fellowship of the Ring" then how come no one knew Moira was inhabited by evil until they got there? Why didn't Gandalf warn anyone? (Listen to me, I sound like A Tolkien fanatic!) I was confused a little, yes, however these plot holes did not take away from my enjoyment of the film.
Overall I give "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" three and a half stars. It was well done and definitely got me excited to see the next film in the series. Now go forth and see it yourself (if you haven't already). Or, go re-read the book that inspired it. Either way you'll be having a good time.