The trailer for 2012′s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hit iTunes (and, of course, everywhere else) yesterday, and rolled over both Facebook and G+ like a tsunami. Prior to this we had seen a couple of behind-the-scenes videos and some stills of the principal cast that made some of them look rather goofy. I’m happy to say that everything seems to have landed fairly softly, based on the trailer.
As I have discussed before, I have my issues with Peter Jackson’s films, especially where they deviate most jarringly from Tolkien’s narrative core. There are also occasions when he tried to punch up that narrative with fast action. This worked in several places, especially in Moria, but in others, especially in the third film, it felt forced, heavy-handed and altogether over the top.
Nevertheless, the Jackson films are unquestionably masterpieces of film-making, and do a marvelous job of translating a very difficult and complex book with a very unconventional structure to the new medium of film. There are things to criticize in them, but a great deal to admire as well.
Jackson’s style of adaptation, evidenced especially in the three extended editions, may better suit the looser and more comedic Hobbit than the relatively somber Lord of the Rings. And just as there were things, like Moria and Weathertop, that we knew Jackson was going to absolutely nail based on the early footage out of Fellowship, so too in this trailer we have the dinner party at Bag End with the plate-tossing and the Dwarves’ song, taken almost verse-for-verse from the book and delivered with impressive weight in the trailer.
Jackson’s two-film Hobbit promises, as well, to tie in very tightly with his earlier adaptation of LotR, bringing in a number of things like the White Council and the Necromancer that link the two books but which happen offstage in one or the other, returning everyone who could be plausibly connected with those events – Galadriel and Saruman and even Legolas as well as characters like Elrond who actually appear in The Hobbit – and even bringing in some elements and characters like Radagast, played by Sylvester McCoy, the seventh (eighth if you count Peter Cushing) incarnation of Doctor Who, who were introduced in LotR but didn’t make it into the film adaptation.
The Dwarves’ song is getting a lot of justifiable praise. For me, though, the highlight of the trailer is Ian McKellen, spectacularly returned as Gandalf the Grey, who I much preferred to the comparatively stuffy Gandalf the White, who added gravitas at the expense of warmth. That alone would have me excited beyond measure to see the film. Add in Beorn and Smaug and Bard the Bowman and the Battle of Five Armies, and it’s gonna be a long year.