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The Hobbit: what can we expect?

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The crucial difference between Jackson’s previous venture - The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, is the change of tone.

Martin Freeman in The Hobbit.

While The Lord of the Rings is based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s thousand page epic and features heavily the themes of death, evil and the impending doom of an entire nation, The Hobbit is more of a fairy tale; a treasure hunt intended primarily for children. There are certainly a few darker moments in the original book (the chapter ‘Riddles in the Dark’, for example, in which Bilbo meets the creature Gollum is particularly unnerving), but they are nothing compared to the hoards of Orcs and black riders that threaten the fellowship throughout The Lord of the Rings.

The question is ‘Will Peter Jackson take full advantage of these darker aspects and use them to create a more sinister piece, or will the focus be mainly on the story’s childish qualities?’

Interestingly enough, the trailer hints at both. On one hand we see shots of Gandalf walking through a ruined, grey stone courtyard, possibly Dol Guldor, the dark lord’s stronghold in Mirkwood: a place only mentioned a few times in the book, yet which seems to feature strongly in the film. The lighter aspects, on the other hand, come in the form of dwarves; introduced in a high-speed montage with various different beards and face-shapes, they look to embody the film’s much needed comical side.

With a single book being split into two films another unanswered question is when the cut-off point will be. At what moment will the first film end and the second begin?

In my opinion, it’s more than likely that the film will not end on a cliff-hanger, but instead come to a close on a quieter note, with a slightly ominous feeling to it: a foreshadowing of things to come, as was the case with The Lord of the Rings films. But it’s hard to even speculate at this point – who knows what the scriptwriters have come up with?

Aside from tone, something that must be mentioned is the ridiculous amount of creatures in The Hobbit

that talk using human voices. From the Cockney accents of the three trolls that the company stumble upon, to the whispering spiders of Mirkwood, Jackson is going to have to be careful not to make this film seem like a trip into Narnia; he will need to maintain the intelligent gravity that The Lord of the Rings so clearly demonstrates and not let it stray into the land of childish absurdity.

The cast list does however include Benedict Cumberbatch, best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, who will be playing the voice of Smaug, the dragon that inhabits the Lonely Mountain.

 

Considering Smaug’s character in the book and also Cumberbatch’s previous roles, we can expect the unveiling of the dragon to be a scene full both of magnificence and comic sarcasm. It’ll also be interesting to see how Jackson approaches the filming of this scene, for he has to take into account the fact that Bilbo will be wearing the ring, and will therefore be invisible. No doubt he’ll think of something.

A quick glance at the official cast list reveals not only Martin Freeman playing the hobbit of the title, Bilbo Baggins, but also a whole host of characters that do not appear in the original book.

Whether this is Peter Jackon’s attempt at fleshing the plot out (bearing in mind the book is only three hundred pages long), or an ingenious marketing strategy to get more people to pay to watch it, it will be interesting to discover when and where these extra characters turn up.

Easily recognisable Lord of the Rings actors such as Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) and Christopher Lee (Saruman) do not actually appear in book. Neither does the character of Radagast – a wizard and nature enthusiast with similar powers to Gandalf – played by Sylvester McCoy. Even in the most insignificant of roles, it seems that every famous face possible is in these two films in one way or another; both Evangeline Lily and Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie are set to play elves, and even comedian Billy Connolly will turn up as dwarf-lord Dain Ironfoot.

Eyebrows may be raised at this celebrity cast list, maybe even causing a few sceptical critics to label the films as ‘commercial spin-offs of the Tolkien franchise’, but The Hobbit is something entirely different – a film that has the potential to be even bigger than The Lord of the Rings.

Not only current fans will flock to see it in their masses, but parents will drag their children; there are very few people who can say that The Hobbit has not been a part of their childhood in some form or another. Fans have been waiting years for these films to be made, so with only eight months until An Unexpected Journey is released, levels of anticipation are set to reach breaking point.

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