Valdosta Daily Times


December 9, 2012

Return to Middle-Earth

Will ‘The Hobbit’ resonate like ‘The Lord of the Rings’?

- — In December 2001, “The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” seemed to fit J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic tale of good versus evil into contemporary times.

Though the movie had been in production for years, based on a story already decades old, “Fellowship of the Ring” was released only three months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The story of a group of people who are enjoying life in the movie’s opening and facing unknown doom by its conclusion resonated with audiences.

One moment seemed to capture the feelings of that time. Assigned to carry the ring, the young hobbit Frodo doubts and fears his task. He tells the wizard Gandalf that he wishes this burden had never been passed to him. That he wishes he never lived to see such horrible times — a feeling many moviegoers understood well in those months following the fall of the Twin Towers and the devastation at the Pentagon.

In response, Gandalf says, “So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

Gandalf’s line cemented the bond between a story of magic and ancient times to a story of real 21st century pain and fear.

Hard to say if the prequel movie, “The Hobbit” will resonate in such a way 11 years later, though it will likely have a large following based on the character’s long-running popularity and the success of the “Lord of the Rings” movies. We’ll know later this week when “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” opens in theatres.

In terms of story, “The Hobbit” is set decades earlier than “Lord of the Rings.” Instead of Frodo, it follows Frodo’s uncle, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Gandalf the Grey convinces this reluctant hobbit into leaving the comfort of the Shire to help a group of homeless dwarfs. Along the way, they confront orcs, giant spiders, wolves.

Bilbo faces a mighty dragon named Smaug, but he also meets a pathetic creature known as Gollum and, through a contest of riddles, wins a ring from him.

“The Hobbit” is a children’s book but it is also the prelude to “The Lord of the Rings.” It tells the story of how the ring and evil once again have entered the world.

Reportedly based on “The Hobbit” book and other Tolkien writings, “The Hobbit” movie isn’t just one movie adaptation, it is a trilogy. With “The Lord of the Rings” being a series of three books of hundreds of pages each, a movie trilogy made sense.

But “The Hobbit” is a 300-page standard paperback. How it will be stretched into three movies remains to be seen.

At least, “The Hobbit” has a wise lord at its helm. “The Hobbit” films are directed by Peter Jackson, who directed the award-winning “Lord of the Rings” films. Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf.

Yet, done right, fans who love Middle-Earth, either in Tolkien’s pages or Jackson’s lush cinematography, will be happy to spend as much time there as possible.

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