[Warning: Spoilers ahead. You may want to watch the movie The Hobbit (2012) before reading this.]
You know The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) may be a movie in trouble when the character you find most “real” is a CGI character. All kudos to Andy Serkis who provides the movements and voice for the Gollum character but what you see on-screen is CGI. Of all the characters in the movie, I was most emotionally engaged with Gollum. You had to feel for him when you see his despair on losing the ring. And the fact that Gollum is in two minds, two personalities that are in constant dialogue, is also an apt metaphor for the movie itself.
Like Gollum, the movie is in two minds. Does it want to follow the intent of Tolkien’s book, a work for children? Or does it want to be taken seriously as a prequel to the very adult Lord of the Rings saga? The movie vacillates between the two.
It’s a children’s movie, hence you have scenes like the dwarves tossing plates after they had cleaned up after dinner, singing:
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!
Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates —
NO! This is a serious movie, a prequel to the serious Lord of the Rings trilogy. You have Gandalf making speeches like:
Galadriel: Mithrandir… Why the halfling?
Gandalf: Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? I don’t know. Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.
NO! This is a children’s movie with silly dialogue like:
Great Goblin: You thought you could escape *me*?
[He swings his mace, knocking Gandalf back]
Great Goblin: What are you going to do now, wizard?
[Gandalf pokes the Great Goblin in the eye with his stick, then cuts straight through his large belly with his sword]
Great Goblin: …That’ll do it.
NO! This is a serious movie. You see Bilbo’s transformation into the reluctant hero with speeches like:
Bilbo Baggins: I know you doubt me, I know you always have, and you’re right. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, and my arm chair, and my garden. See, that’s where I belong; that’s home, and that’s why I came cause you don’t have one.. a home. It was taken from you, but I will help you take it back if I can.
What The Hobbit is is a long movie, three hours of vacillation between children’s movie and serious prequel. Didn’t quite work for me. Which is not to say there aren’t gems in it.
My next favourite character is Bilbo Baggins, ably played by Martin Freeman whom I first encountered in the TV series, Sherlock. In his pre-adventure days, Bilbo, like all hobbits, just wants to be left alone to enjoy the creature comforts of life. He is oblivious of life beyond his immediate world. But Gandalf involves him in an adventure — complaining all the way, he allows himself to be dragged outside his comfort zone, and drawn into an adventure that calls upon competencies he doesn’t have, like how to wield a sword.
Bilbo had a number of opportunities to say no to the adventure, or to turn back when the going got tough. But he discovers courage and empathy he didn’t know he had and ends up on the most amazing adventure of his life.
I think of middle-class Christians like myself. We have worked hard to chase our dreams, American, Singaporean or Malaysian. And now we feel that we are entitled to enjoy the creature comforts we worked so hard to get. Yes, we may have responded to the gospel and, on paper at least, call Jesus Lord and God but we want to live our lives in our comfort zones. Jesus knocks on our door, however, interrupting our meals or our enjoyment of our latest movies, and calls us to follow Him.
Although me may not know it, or prefer not to know it, there is a war going on. There are people with deep need everywhere. And though the King has come and won the decisive battle on the Cross, there is work to be done before the return of the King. Like Bilbo, we can say “no thanks” or, if we have begun to follow Christ, we may want to turn back when the going gets tough. Or we can decide, in His strength, to follow Him all the way, to the Cross and to glory. We can say yes to the most incredible adventure of our lives.
N.B. One question though, why didn’t the Eagles drop the company at or near the Lonely Mountain?