The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 15-Jan-2013

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By TOM O'CALLAGHAN


THE problem with Middle Earth is that it is cruelly immersive.
It is an all-engrossing, detailed world, yet too fleeting to spend enough time in.
It’s a feeling that I despised when the Lord of the Rings trilogy first hit the screens and only recalled halfway through the current offering, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
From one movie premiere to the next is 365 days. It will be one year until I get to see another three hours worth of Middle Earth.
There is only one man who ever really got to properly explore the place and that was its creator, JRR Tolkien.
The Oxford don was so obsessed with the place that he created multiple languages, maps, histories and mythologies.
Ten years ago while rooting around a second hand bookshop in Ballarat I found an old copy of Tolkien’s Silmarillion.
It is not the kind of book you’d expect to find in the fantasy section of a bookshop.
For one thing its first few chapters are a creation narrative such as you would find in any major religion’s holy book or in ancient Norse, Celtic or Greek myths.
In his introduction to Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia, David Day points out that the stories in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings were almost a secondary concern.
Tolkien’s ambition was to create an entire mythological system for the English people.
This obsessive need to create a world means that Tolkien could stroll into Middle Earth at will.
The rest of us must cling to his books, letters and notes.
We also have the three Lord of the Rings movies.
The latest film offering set in Tolkien’s world, An Unexpected Journey, has received mixed reviews.
The major criticisms being that the beginning is slow, every now and again there’s a couple of verses of singing (god forbid) and every detail of the book seems to have been recreated on screen.
But the naysayers don’t understand that the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings aren’t just action movies with swords, they are an escape into another place entirely.
If you watch this because you want to see a major motion picture that doesn’t leave the majority of a book’s plot on a cutting room floor, you are going to love An Unexpected Journey.
If you watch this because you loved the Lord of the Rings movies you will love An Unexpected Journey.
But if there can only be one reason to watch The Hobbit, do it because it is one of the few chances anyone gets to go for a walk in Middle Earth.

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