An Unexpected Journey is also an unexpected surprise in several ways.
There has been plenty of ongoing discussion around new additions to the Middle-earth film franchise such as adapting The Silmarillion. And I suspect that most would like this to be in line with the tone of the LOTR series, rather than the Hobbit trilogy. But, to offer a different perspective, I would like to backtrack to one of the best films from the Hobbit trilogy and how it truly embraces Tolkien’s book for children.
Director Peter Jackson’s 2012 film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was the first installment of the Hobbit trilogy. This served as a preliminary basis for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Hobbit, like The Lord of the Rings, is based on another novel by British author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.
Tolkien and His World
In addition to LOTR fame, Tolkien was a linguist as well as a professor. When writing his fantasy he spent a good deal of time formulating entire languages and alphabetical symbols. He did this for several of the fictional races inhabiting Middle-earth such as the Elves and Dwarves.
The man’s passion for music really shines through most of his works of literature. The very second sentence of Tolkien’s Silmarillion (pretty much the creation story of Middle-earth) reads as follows: “And he [Eru] spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad.” There are about 20 songs/rhymes spanning across the 19 chapters of The Hobbit novel. Only eight of these were riddles from ‘Riddles in the Dark.’
The Music of Middle-earth Movies
When Peter Jackson adapted The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for the big screen, he chose an excellent composer in Howard Shore. It was Shore’s major contributions to the Lord of the Rings trilogy which got him his first Oscar as well as a Grammy.
Jackson’s films are highly regarded for many aspects, not least among them the epic soundtracks. There are oodles of great scores from Shore throughout the two trilogies. But what about actual songs with lyrics being sung by the characters as so often seen in Tolkien’s novels?
Well, in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, we see Aragorn sing in the Elven tongue about twice. Merry and Pippin get up on a table in a pub and start singing together, and Pippin sings for the delirious Denethor in The Return of the King. That’s stretching it pretty thinly across three long movies.
And this is what makes An Unexpected Journey interesting and unique.
It features just as many songs as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy but in just a single movie. It could practically pass off as a musical.
Thorin Oakenshield and Company get through two songs before they even start the journey. Then when the obnoxious Dwarves reach Rivendell and are invited to dinner, Bofur (my favorite Dwarf in the movies) stands up on the table and starts dancing.
Even the bad guys enjoy singing (as they do in the books too). The Goblin king breaks out into a solo when the Dwarves are brought to him.
All that noted, this is probably the most musical film about the Middle-earth characters yet made, and as a lover of the novels, I found An Unexpected Journey a refreshing, more book-accurate depiction of part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s saga.