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Ringer Reviews - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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A Radagast Reveal2 ('the inner child' on wisdom's path)

Date Posted: 2013-01-01
Tolkien Fan Level: 9
Film Format Seen? 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes

Saruman's appearance in Jackson's White Council scene, and his derisive words for a fellow wizard, reveal more than ever his staunch pride from the very beginning of his mission to Middle-earth. For when the Valar-gods chose the Istari, Saruman 'the Wise' utterly balked at humble Radagast 'the Brown' being foisted upon him as a companion, at Yavanna's request. One of the great Vala, Tolkien seems to emphasize, should not have to 'beg' a Maia to take a companion on a dangerous mission ('Unfinished Tales', p. 393; 'The History of The Hobbit', pp. 268-280, 287-292).

And because of the striking contrast of this (almost humorous) 'companionship', it is Yavanna's humble emmisary Radagast (perfectly embodied by Sylvester McCoy) sent to defend Middle-earth's natural world against the encroaching Darkness upon her domain, and his wondrous sledge (a lovely folkloric tie to the wizard's Slavic origins in name and mode of transport), and his tender care of little Sebastian the hedgehog, that become utterly delightful additions to Jackson's HOBBIT. In one deft stroke, it seems, the New Zealand filmmaker transposes to his special artistic medium the Brown Wizard's 'life and times' from Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS (and other literary works) β€” and, in fact, ingeniously embellishes them (due to the relatively little about Radagast that can be culled therefrom, giving Jackson also a greater freedom so to do). Indeed, it appears that Jackson here transports the very conditions (as they exist in 'The Lord of the Rings') when Sauron's forces of Dol Guldur are poised for their late-June 3018 attack on the wood-elves' realm (just before Radagast finally finds Gandalf at Midsummer and hurries away homeward), to show NOW 'on film' (just as Radagast's foreknowledge of the impending Mirkwood attack was revealed THEN 'on the written page') his urgent concern over the denizens of the forest whom he has taken under his protection.

Moreover in Jackson's film, a multifaceted depiction of Radagast and his activities reveals not only his primary concern for Middle-earth's flora and fauna (a directorial nod to the necessarily absent, nature-loving Tom Bombadil?) but also a marvelous balance between, on the one hand, the solemn wizard (with grave tidings indeed for Gandalf & Company), and on the other, a more lighthearted characterization of him for movie-going children.

Likewise, the Trolls and Goblin Town were actually meant to be, I believe, great lighthearted fare for the children, in keeping with the spirit of Tolkien's seminal fairytale. So if these scenes perhaps border on adolescent fun, even sillyness at times, and a heightened (incredulous) sense of action-adventure, that's because they were perhaps meant to. Jackson, for the children (and the 'child' in us all), purposely keeps 'tongue in cheek' throughout: 'All good stories deserve embellishment' β€” hence the burping, snot and flatulence jokes that most children love and giggle at; hence the Goblin King's less-frightening 'comic' death line, making that necessary demise 'less horrific' for children, as Tolkien himself did by his word choices: for both 'sub-creators' very carefully have crafted their 'scary' scenes in a way that does not frighten the juvenile core of their intended audiences. But the message of an ability to laugh at ourselves β€” at our human-ness β€” is not only meant for the children: it's a message, I believe, for all of us in 'the world of the big people' to 'lighten up'.

But before our collective cinematic journey 'ends' we still have two more films(!), which I believe will mature and darken just as Bilbo himself matures and finds deeper wells of wisdom within himself through difficult testing and hard trials, but finds also a kind of redemption from 'prized possessions' (which can themselves 'possess' us) through 'small acts of kindness', friendship, and love.

Cheers! to all who would with Bilbo brave these perilous yet enchanting roads that 'go ever, ever on'.

The Ratings
The Other Ratings
Martin Freeman 's performance as Bilbo Baggins?
Richard Armitage 's performance as Thorin?
The Overall representation of The Dwarves ?
Andy Serkis' performance as Gollum?
Ian McKellen's performance as Gandalf?
Bilbo's retelling of the history of Erebor and of Thror/Thrain/Thorin
The Eagles rescue sequence?
The Goblin King ?
Initial impression of Thranduil?
Hugo Weaving's performance as Elrond?
Radagast's portrayal in the movie?
The representation of Goblintown?
Cate Blanchett's performance as Galadriel?
The Bag End Supper scene?
The scene of the Trolls?
The representation of the Arkenstone?
The Stone Giants?
Escape from the Goblin cave?
Riddles in the Dark scene?
The return to Rivendell?
The attack on the party by the Wargs
The first glimpses of Smaug?
The ending of the movie; in regards to leading well into the next film, and serving as a good ending point.
The overall pace of the film
Peter Jackson's vision in bringing the Hobbit to the big screen.

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