the-hobbit-the-unexpected-journey-wideThe world of Middle-earth is back. This time fans will see it in 3D. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey delivers a courageous adventure of heroic proportions. It is the first installment of a planned trilogy of Tolkien’s classic, The Hobbit. Filled with 3D battles that jump off the screen, it’s the movie Tolkien fans have waited nine years, since the last Lord of the Rings film, to see.

Director Peter Jackson says The Hobbit fits the fairy tale framework more than The Lord of the Rings and he and his writers capture that difference well on screen. “I discovered a humor and charm that The Lord of the Rings does not have,” he says.

The film begins in the peaceful Shire of Bilbo Baggins—Frodo’s uncle—sixty years prior to the events of The Lord of the Rings take place. When Bilbo leaves the comfort of his home, it’s one battle after another as Bilbo accompanies Gandalf the Wizard and a company of dwarfs, led by the outcast King Thorin, traveling to reclaim their lost homeland, the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor in the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, from the treasure-coveting dragon, Smaug.

Bilbo and company must navigate through a dangerous world where internal and external evil forces are at work to sabotage their virtuous intentions.

“Can you promise me I will come back?”  Bilbo asks Gandalf.  “No,” Gandalf responds, “and if you do, you will not be the same.”

Fear and hopelessness begin to take hold as their fight against dark forces loses it’s footing. The courage to overcome these dark forces, Gandalf teaches, is not about an absence of fear, but trust in the higher virtue of hope and practicing mercy.

When questioned why he chose Bilbo, who by any measure is weak, Gandalf says “Perhaps it’s because I’m afraid, and he gives me courage.”

Though Frodo takes a backseat in this film, one of films most beloved characters, Gollum, is front and center and more lifelike than ever. “We were looking forward to doing Gollum again,” said Joe Leterri, the senior visual effects supervisor. “In this business you often don’t get to go back and revisit a character and do it better.”

The film delivers that and more with humorous respites from fight scenes, breathtaking panoramas of the New Zealand countryside where it was filmed and special effects that will be tough to beat for this year’s Oscar. It seems a nearly decade long break from Middle Earth was worth the wait as Peter Jackson and his crew gives fans an early Christmas present.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens nationwide December 14th.

Luke Maguire Armstrong is an occasional guest contributor to The Integrated Catholic Life™. He is the author of Amazing Grace for Survivors (Ascension Press, 2008). After finishing degrees in philosophy and English abroad at La Catolica Pontificia University of Valparaiso, he did what any financially oblivious recent college grad would do… he took out a large student loan and planned to backpack from Chile to Alaska.

He stopped in Guatemala where he spent four years as the Director of Social Services Programs for the educational development organization, Nuestros Ahijados. His efforts to battle infant malnutrition were featured on ABC News 20/20’s 2010 Global Health Special: Be A Change Save A Live. His fiction, non-fiction and poetry can be found on

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