Asbury Tolkien Expert Comments on Preview
The first trailer for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" has just come out and is creating quite a buzz. Although the release is still a year away — part one is scheduled for December 2012, and part two for December 2013 — Hobbit-mania has already begun.
Dr. Devin Brown, an Asbury University English Professor, J.R.R. Tolkein expert and author of “The Christian World of ‘The Hobbit’ (Abingdon Press 2012), takes some time to offer us some comments on what the trailer reveals:
(Note: Brown's work will be the first book-length examination of the faith elements in Tolkien's prelude to “The Lord of the Rings,” and the trailer he discusses can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0k3kHtyoqc)
This prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” features many of the same characters. Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen, will again have a major role. Gollum, another favorite, who is reprised by Andy Serkis, will appear as well and comes into the trailer near the very end. This time around, it is Bilbo Baggins, not his younger nephew Frodo, who has the starring spot. In the trailer, we see Ian Holm again playing the older Bilbo as he did in “The Lord of the Rings.” Martin Freeman is introduced as the young, home-loving Bilbo who is sent off on his first adventure.
Fans of the previous films, will be struck by how familiar this movie seems. We are taken back to the same scenery in the Shire, at Rivendell, and beneath the Misty Mountains. We also hear bits from the same wonderful Howard Shore soundtrack. Director Peter Jackson has done a great job of making it feel like “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” are part of one great story, which is what Tolkien intended.
The 13 dwarves, who play a larger role in this story, take on an appropriate tone in the trailer, one which is both serious and comic. In Tolkien’s original story, while still at Bag-end Bilbo falls under the enchantment of the song they sing about their lost treasure. Watching the trailer, we fall under its haunting spell ourselves.
In some ways, “The Hobbit” works well coming after “The Lord of the Rings” rather than before. Audiences can have the enjoyment of saying to themselves, so that’s how Bilbo acquired his sword named Sting, and so that’s how Bilbo met Gollum and found the ring. Both of these back stories have a few moments in the trailer.
If the final film is as good as the two and a half minutes we see here, “The Hobbit” promises to be as commercially and critically successful as Peter Jackson’s earlier Tolkien adaptations. Tolkien was as serious about his Christian faith as he was about his fiction. It is wonderful that his creations — he would call them sub-creations because he saw God as the only true creator — are receiving the attention they richly deserve. I would argue that one reason Tolkien’s stories have been so widely popular, both in the previous century and the current one, is because they have been so greatly needed.
— Dr. Devin Brown teaches a class on the fiction of C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien at Asbury University where he is a Lilly Scholar and Professor of English. He is the author of three successful books on C. S. Lewis and Narnia. He has spoken on Lewis and Tolkien at many conferences in England and the U.S. His next book, “The Christian World of ‘The Hobbit’” will be released by Abingdon Press in September 2012 in advance of the film. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.