"The Hobbit: There and Back Again" was first published in 1937. And yet, somehow, I feel compelled to say SPOILER ALERT!
Peter Jackson's unexpected journey actually leads to some wonderfully familiar places. When you don your giant grey wizard's hat and venture off to Middle Earth to see "The Hobbit" (in 24 fps, for the love of Smaug) there will be more than one occasion where you'll be cued to go "Oh, hey, I remember that from the other movies!"
Of course, the short, kid-friendly book is getting the trilogy treatment of "Lord of the Rings'" three weighty tomes, so there's more than enough wiggle room to throw in a number of callbacks – many of which never existed in the original texts.
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The warm glow of remembrance will hit you from the first nanoseconds of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." The title treatment is the same as in the original trilogy, so seeing "Wingnut Films" ought to get you hit you right in the Minas Tirith.
Also Check Out: A Review of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'
If that doesn't do it for ya, the music will. At first Howard Shore's score bears no resemblance to the three "LOTR" openings (you know, the melancholy "dummmm, duh-duh-duuuuuh-dummmmm") but it quickly breaks into a theme with familiar phrases. Special note: the dark theme first heard as the "Misty Mountains" Dwarf song might be the best thing Shore's ever done for a Tolkien film.
So after the opening title cards we're back at the Shire (I know that place) specifically Bag End (I know that place, too!) the home of Bilbo Baggins. Inside Ian Holm is once again puttering around and it doesn't take too long to figure out that the beginning of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" begins pretty much right where "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings" also begins. (It'll take you a little longer to piece this together, maybe, if you watch in 48 fps because you'll be in the lobby talking to the theater manager, convinced the projectionist is tweaked out on methamphetamines.)
There's a quick hello from Elijah Wood's Frodo and we see the book Bilbo was working on before the big party. (There's even a reference to the Sackville-Bagginses.) Soon, however, we flashback in Bilbo's mind sixty years prior. Back when Gandalf was still Grey.
Indeed, Ian McKellan's lovable wizard appears and his chat with a younger Bilbo (quite amusingly portrayed by Martin Freeman) is what gets the story (slowly) rolling. After a talk referencing fireworks (yay!) and the Tooks (double-yay!) there's the famous Dwarf dinner which, after much belching and singing, the quest to free The Lonely Mountain (and its gold) from Smaug the Dragon is launched.
During the long march to the next plot point there is plenty of time to schmooze, so Gandalf mentions some of the other Wizards he knows. Among them Saruman, who we all know in the audience will eventually be a big jerk.
After some fights with Orcs (those guys!) and the discovery of the Elf-blade Sting (later given to Frodo, of course) our team comes to Rivendell. It gets the same lavish master shots as in "Fellowship" and here we once again see Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman. Also, the Elf played by the guy from "Flight of the Conchords."
There's a lengthy sequence of yapping that rivals any Galactic Senate debate from "The Phantom Menance," and then we're back on the road. They eventually find the Misty Mountains (I know that from "LOTR" and Led Zeppelin) despite the fact that Dwarf doors are hidden (oh, yeah, I remember that, too.)
The gang also meets up with a mushroom-popping Wizard named Radagast. When he starts rambling, Gandalf tries to soothe him with a puff of something you may remember: Old Toby.
Of course, the biggest connection to "LOTR" of all is, indeed, The Ring. This is in line with Tolkien's first retcon of his own work. ("The Hobbit" was re-kajiggered a number of times to keep in line with the ever-expanding mythos of Middle Earth.) The Ring of Power "falls" on Bilbo's finger in much the same way as it does in the Prancing Pony tavern. This is, of course, after a lengthy back and forth with Smeagol. This concludes with Smeagol shouting "Thief! Theif! Baggins! We hates it!" just as he does in "The Two Towers."
"An Unexpected Journey" ends with back-to-back battle sequences that are just Orcsome. When things look rough for our band, however, Gandalf pulls an old trick he knows. He whispers to a winged insect (this time, a nice butterfly instead of an icky moth) and, just in the nick of time, giant eagles come to save the day.
Listen, if you had that trick up your cloak you'd use it, too – even if it didn't seem that original.
There's no doubt I missed a few connections. (I blame it on the Old Toby.) If you caught something I didn't mention, please fill it in in the comments below.
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