My mom and dad just finished putting away all the Christmas decorations, so I guess Christmas is over. It’s always a gloomy feeling when the ornaments come off the tree and the tree goes back in its box and into the attic, but this year feels especially bittersweet. This will be my last Christmas at home; of course, the upside is that I’m getting married, and to a wonderful girl at that. We get to start our own family and begin our own traditions, and I honestly can’t wait. But as exciting as that sounds, Christmas won’t ever be the same again as it was when I was a kid. And part of me wants to hold onto that.
Today I was cleaning out the dresser drawers in my room (no mean feat- they were filled with junk), and I ran across some notes from some old girlfriends. Luckily, those notes will absolutely never see the light of day, because they were quite embarrassing. Suffice it to say, I was very dramatic as an 8th and 9th grader, somewhere along the lines of the lyrics to a Taylor Swift song, or the opening to this smh-worthy video*. That’s a part of my childhood I have no problem leaving behind. While those notes were good for a laugh, I sure am glad I’m growing up.
I also found a ticket stub from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, which I saw with one of my girlfriends back in the day. The Lord of the Rings trilogy holds an interesting place in my past. I saw it in my formative years, before I was old enough to really comprehend the vast scope of Tolkien’s and Jackson’s genius. And while much of those few years wasn’t all that fun, and I’d like to block a lot of it out, I do hold a lot of nostalgia for Peter Jackson’s films. I loved them then, and I love them now. Going to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a few weeks ago with my family was a lot like looking through my drawers: I wanted ever so much to dive back into this wonderful world, but I was kind of wondering if I shouldn’t be moving on from it.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a monumental achievement, but I don’t think we’ve yet seen the full effects of what Jackson and his cast and crew accomplished back in 2001-2003. Only time will allow us the proper perspective. But what fun would it be to wait? I’m hard-pressed to think of another movie that so wholly presents a world to its audience. When you watch any of the three Lord of the Rings movies, you feel as if there is so much more to explore than just what’s on the screen, like a whole history took place before you started watching the movie and will continue on long after you finish. A few other movies come to mind: the original Star Wars trilogy, Avatar, Blade Runner. But they’re all sci-fi movies. I can’t think of any fantasy movies that so deeply surround you in a world.
Peter Jackson does a brilliant job of recreating that world in The Hobbit. Once again, he finds ways to expand your understanding and appreciation of Middle Earth and the characters that live within. I was concerned that I would feel as if I had grown up past Middle Earth; maybe there would be a been there-done that quality, like I should clean out that drawer and find other movies to immerse myself in. But that wasn’t the case at all. Jackson doesn’t catch the same lightning he caught with the first trilogy, but he stayed true to the world and to the story, and in the process he made a very good movie.
Some people have scoffed at the idea of making the slim Hobbit novel into three movies, even accusing Jackson of being in it for the money. But if the interviews Peter Jackson gives are any indication, he made this decision in the interest of telling the story as completely possible. After seeing the first installment in the new trilogy, Jackson’s succeeding. Maybe the sentimentality at the end of The Hobbit is a little forced, something the original trilogy never had trouble with. And maybe the CGI is a little more prominent instead of the more realistic miniatures and extra extras portraying orcs. But the strong cast and the well-paced story more than make up for it. It’s nice to have the old favorites back (I see you Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, and Hugo Weaving), but it’s the new actors that shine, especially Richard Armitage as the dwarf leader, Thorin, and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. And Jackson and his writers did a fantastic job spacing out the episodes of the story so that the movie never drags.
It doesn’t turn out to be a great movie in the end. It feels unfinished, which does make sense, as it’s the first of the trilogy, though the first two Lord of the Rings movies certainly didn’t feel incomplete as movies. The key to my enjoyment of The Hobbit is that I’m not worried if it’s not as great as the originals. It’s an enjoyable trip back into Middle Earth. And it seems that if the next two are this good, Peter Jackson will look back at the Hobbit movies with nostalgia and not regret.
*I like Taylor Swift’s music, btw. She taps into that middle schooler inside my mind that’s unfortunately still listening to Maroon 5 and Linkin Park.