There and Back Again: Where The Hobbit Fits in With Lord of the Rings and Prequels

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Last night fans across the globe returned to Middle Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with what I thought to be mixed results. But it isn’t exactly The Phantom Menace. So here is a fan’s analysis of where this film lands on the prequel spectrum and how it compares to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Just be warned, here there be spoilers!

The story was similar in the days leading up to May 19, 1999. Fans were going crazy over there being more Star Wars. But what they got was what many believed to be George Lucas letting his bowels loose on their childhoods.

That’s a stretch. I will defend The Phantom Menace to a certain degree for as long as I live, but I know there are some serious issues with it. While An Unexpected Journey is a better film than Lucas’ first prequel, they do share one major problem: the events of the film don’t really matter in the grande scheme of things.

Sure, Anakin Skywalker is found on Tatooine and to be trained as a Jedi, and Bilbo finds the Ring of Power in Gollum’s cave, but neither of these events are the centerpiece of the films they are in. And they shouldn’t be! They are small events that lead to much bigger things. Including them is both a gift and a curse to the overall story.

Don’t get me wrong, Anakin’s meeting with the Jedi council in Phantom Menace and the game of riddles in Unexpected Journey are both probably the best parts of their films. They just don’t contribute a great deal to the premise of their own films. Anakin has nothing to do with the blockade on Naboo and the ring, at this point, has nothing to do with the dwarves reclaiming their homeland.

But this is where the comparisons between these two films stops. See, The Phantom Menace has a lot of bad things in it. Midichlorians, for example, take out the mysticism of the Force. The wooden acting and dialogue go throughout its bloated runtime. Jar Jar Binks.

These are all the areas where George Lucas failed that Peter Jackson succeeds, aside from the bloated run time. For the most part, the acting is on par with the original trilogy. You couldn’t ask for a better Bilbo than Martin Freeman. Plus, despite the lighter tone, Jackson never gives in to fart jokes or child humor.

But the biggest success is that An Unexpected Journey actually enhances a few moments from the original trilogy for the better, where Phantom Menace actually detracted from it.

In The Lord of the Rings, we never get to see Galadriel and Gandalf interact, yet in Fellowship of the Ring, when she hear’s of his death in Moria, she appears to be deeply saddened. In The Hobbit, their scenes get a bit of a romantic flourish but don’t go too far.

Gollum’s character only improves as we see him more desperate and pathetic than ever. It adds an extra weight to his hunt for the ring in the first trilogy to see him like this. His quest has become more emotional than ever.

Best of all is the use of the eagles in the film’s climax. Gandalf calls upon the eagles once in Fellowship to rescue him from Saruman’s tower. Seeing his pre-existing relationship with the eagles makes this clearer. It also makes their appearance at the final battle of Return of the King much stronger since Gandalf doesn’t even call for them. It feels more like they are fighting for Middle Earth because they care about it as much as the next race.

These are the types of things I hope to see in The Desolation of Smaug in 2013 and There and Back Again in 2014. But I also hope to see the story of The Hobbit come into its own. Many might disagree with me, but the Star Wars prequels only got better because they tried different things with the series. I hope the next Hobbit films go the same route.

But that is still a long journey ahead, both for Jackson and his audience. Hopefully he will learn from this film when editing the next two.

One Response to There and Back Again: Where The Hobbit Fits in With Lord of the Rings and Prequels

  1. Sanch says:

    If you relate Galadriel and Gandalf’s interaction as romantic then this post is useless .. u dont know the film at all

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