In scarcely less than one week’s time, Tolkien fever will return to once again envelop our world in the way that only Middle-earth and destiny-driven Hobbits can bring about. An Unexpected Journey- the first instalment in The Hobbit trilogy- will mark Academy Award winning director Peter Jackson’s long awaited and much heralded return to the world of wizards and elves that he brought so vividly to our cinema screens one decade ago. The movies will show Jackon’s filmatic interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 Carnegie Medal winning fantasy novel The Hobbit, widely regarded as a seminal classic in children’s literature.
The trilogy of movies, set for release in December 2012, 2013 & 2014, will act as a prequel cycle to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and will star Sir Ian McKellen, reprising his role as the affable and endearing wizard Gandalf, Martin Freeman (widely known as The Office’s Tim Canterbury) as the eponymous heroic hobbit Bilbo Baggins, and North & South’s Richard Armitage as the Dwarven leader Thorin Oakenshield. Several other actors from the original Lord of the Rings trilogy will return, including Andy Serkis (Gollum), Hugo Weaving (Elrond Half-Elven), Cate Blanchett (High Elf Galadriel), Christopher Lee (Saruman the White), Ian Holm (the older Bilbo Baggins), Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), and Orlando Bloom (Legolas, son of Thranduil).
Of course unless you’ve been hiding away in your very own Hobbit Hole for the past year you know all this already! What you also probably know is that Jackson has decided to stretch what was previously conceived as a two-parter into a trilogy of movies so that he can tell more of the story using the appendices from The Lord of Rings (The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales are off-limits as Jackson only has the rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings).
What I’d like to do in this article is examine the key areas where I expect the trilogy will differ from The Hobbit book. I’d also like to discuss the characters and their context in the movies in detail, with a view to re-acquainting and re-familiarising you with Middle-earth.
SPOILER WARNING: this article will talk about events from The Hobbit book and the Lord of the Rings appendices that are likely to be presented in the films. If for some insane reason you have never read The Hobbit (please go to the nearest mirror and have a word with yourself!) then you should be aware that this article is rife with plot speculation and potential spoilers.