Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure



The Hobbit first edition
The Hobbit is the first step on Tolkien’s long journey into Middle-earth. The story is set in Middle-earth sixty years before The Lord of the Rings, and portions of the film are adapted from the appendices to Tolkien's The Return of the King novel. An Unexpected Journey tells of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is convinced by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to accompany thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on a quest across Middle-earth to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug the dragon.
Lord of the Rings
I saw the movie twice, within a short space of time (all right, four days!), and just loved it all over again. Amazingly, the book has never been out of print, and encouraged by the book's critical and financial success, the publisher requested a sequel. The Lord of the Rings was the result. So much has been written on that subject I won’t even try to offer an opinion, suffice to say that I am a huge fan of the book, and regularly reread the tome.

I read a few reviews of The Hobbit movie before I saw it and although there were some complaints, I was undeterred. I went determined to enjoy myself. I did not notice the 48 versus 24 whatever per second that people said made it blurry or ‘unreal.’ I did not notice the length—I could have sat through another three hours quite happily. And as for one critic saying all the dwarves were the same, well, they were not at all. With the second viewing, I noticed small but pertinent details that gave every character his unique aspect. I absolutely loved the grand, nay, spectacular setting, and being a huge fan of the LOTR trilogy, it was wonderful to see the fantastic scenery again unfold on the big screen.

Some critics complained that the quest was drawn out and could hardly fill the time allotted to it. However, The Hobbit’s quest is smaller, more intimate, and the fate of Middle-earth is not the issue. The fate of the dwarves’ home is the central theme, as well as Bilbo’s personal growth into a brave hobbit. Here, as well, is where the One Ring makes its first appearance. Everyone’s individual quest is naturally scaled down, but no less important than the grand quest of LOTR.

However, the best part of my trip to the movies was this: a visit to a bookstore in the cinema complex displaying a host of books dealing with The Hobbit and LOTR. Books. Real books. Books in print. Books with richly embossed covers and fabulous illustrations. Not e-books. That, for me, was the best part. How can anyone expect to appreciate the grandeur of Tolkien’s vision on a Kindle or e-reader? So, when all is said and done, just remember that real books are an unexpected adventure in themselves.
I have just read an article on the dire situation facing Britain’s High Street bookshops (they have halved!) in which the writer (Allan Massie) says that bookshops have to get more personal to survive. Call us old-fashioned but bookshops seem to still be alive and well in South Africa. They are bright, welcoming, colourful, with displays of the latest books, and (cleverly) are usually aligned to a coffee shop. You can browse as much as you like, enjoy your coffee, read the latest newspapers and books, and no one chases you out for lounging among the best examples of the written word. Long live bookshops, I say!

Here are just some of the wonderful visual accompaniments to the film.
Don't forget the map!
Richly illustrated with more than 100 colour photos from the film, and featuring a brand new fold-out map charting the journey from Bag End to Wilderland, TheHobbit: An Unexpected Journey Visual Companion begins the Quest for the Lonely Mountain in spectacular style.

Enter Bilbo Baggins’ world through exclusive interviews with director Peter Jackson, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and all the principal cast and filmmakers, who share film-making secrets and tales of what it was actually like making movie magic in Middle-earth.
Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos of the actors, locations, sets, creatures and costumes, TheHobbit: An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide has been produced in collaboration with the filmmakers who have brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel into breath-taking three-dimensional life.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Art & Design is a sumptuous celebration of the creative vision of Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The book is packed with more than 1,000 images of concept artwork, photographs, and development paintings by the artists working behind the scenes to bring Middle-earth to life, who each provide detailed and entertaining commentary that reveals the story behind the vision. As a bonus feature unique to this book, there is a special fold-out map printed in glow-in-the-dark ink and a giant four-page fold-out of Bilbo's contract.
Of course, the contract!
 

In The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook, Alan Lee, the Oscar-winning conceptual designer for the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, discusses his approach to depicting Tolkien’s imaginary world. The book presents more than 150 of Lee’s celebrated illustrations to show how his imagery for both the illustrated Lord of the Rings and the films progressed from concept to finished art. In addition, the book contains 20 full-colour plates and numerous examples of the conceptual art produced for Peter Jackson’s film adaptation.

Happy reading, and if you haven’t seen The Hobbit yet, go and enjoy director Peter Jackson’s splendid vision.

By Fiona Ingram
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