An Unexpected Journey Unexpectedly a lot like the Fellowship of the Ring

The past weekend in Montreal was humid and rainy making it downright unpleasant to be outside (apart from going for the occasional run). As a result, the weather prompted the decision for a Lord of the Rings Extended Edition marathon. Really I will look for any excuse to do this – I love those movies. But wait, there’s another one now. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has not received the same reception as its predecessors. Overall the feelings have been positive but there are a lot of fans of the book out there who did not take kindly to Peter Jackson’s liberally epic adaptation (well the first part of it anyway). I am not one of those fans. I love The Hobbit, it is one of my favorite books but I take no issue with the first part of Jackson’s trilogy. Yes there are some scenes that obviously exist solely for the sake of setup (White Council, I’m looking at you) but as long as there is a pay off in the later films, I’m fine with it. The movie trilogy is not the simple story but then it never had a chance to be. Going back to a simple adventure after the release of Lord of the Rings would have been a difficult if not impossible tonal shift.

But reviews aside, this is not a review. The only reason I mention the fact that there are those who like and not the other is because I find it odd. Really, after watching the two back-to-back (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey followed by Fellowship of the Ring), those two movies are very similar. Both films carry a lighthearted tone and are adventure/journey movies with a subplot of pursuit. I could write more but, in the case of this article, let’s let pictures be worth thousands of words.

Both films begin with a fairly epic prologue before cutting to the Shire for Bilbo's 111th birthday.
Both films begin with a fairly epic prologue before cutting to the Shire for Bilbo’s 111th birthday.
Both films then have a hobbit who is shaken out of his normal life by an unexpected visit from Gandalf.
Both films then have a hobbit who is shaken out of his normal life by an unexpected visit from Gandalf.
We are then introduced to new characters including the obvious comic relief.
We are then introduced to new characters including the obvious comic relief.
And a disgraced figure of noble heritage.
And a disgraced figure of noble heritage.

I will interrupt right here to acknowledge a difference. In the Fellowship of the Ring, the full fellowship is not formed until they reach Rivendell. In An Unexpected Journey, the full fellowship is formed right away. It is a difference, however let’s keep going and see how much it really breaks up the structural similarities.

Both parties encounter difficulties when Gandalf is strangely absent from a situation he should be present in.
Both parties encounter difficulties when Gandalf is strangely absent from a situation he should be present in.
They are then pursued.
They are then pursued.
Luckily they receive some speedy aid to help them reach safety. (Incidentally the above quote is included because it is just that awesome).
Luckily they receive some speedy aid to help them reach safety. (Incidentally the above quote is included because it is just that awesome).
Rivendell dispatches with the pursuers.
Rivendell dispatches with the pursuers.
Where the party briefly rests...
Where the party briefly rests…
And there is a council wherein new information is revealed. Most of this information isn't relevant until later films.
And there is a council wherein new information is revealed. Most of this information isn’t relevant until later films.
Well back on the road again. Both parties first take mountain roads where they suffer from extreme weather which turns out not to be related to normal weather patterns.
Well back on the road again. Both parties first take mountain roads where they suffer from extreme weather which turns out not to be related to normal weather patterns.
Before going underground.
Before going underground.
To a gave teaming with orcs/goblins.
To a cave teaming with orcs/goblins.
Gandalf saves the day with magic.

Here we encounter another diversion. There is no equivalent of Lothlórien in An Unexpected Journey. Wait, maybe there is. In Lothlórien, Frodo is tempted by the ring. There is a pause in the action while he has dialogue with a being who knows more about the ring than he does. This being (Galadriel) reveals to Frodo the dangers of what happens when one becomes too absorbed by the ring and does not resist its temptations. Frodo then leaves with a new resolve for his quest. Hmm, might there be something similar in An Unexpected Journey?

Yep.
Yep.
Once that's done we got pursuit again.
Once that’s done we got pursuit again.
Ending in a face-off between the pursuer and the disgraced noble character.
Climaxing in a face-off between the pursuer and the disgraced noble character.
Ending with a scene celebrating friendship.
Ending with a scene celebrating friendship.
An ending forecasting darker challenges to come.
And forecasting darker challenges to come.

So there you have it. There are a few other scene similarities there that I didn’t mention but I think I made my point.

Yes, there are differences to be sure. Overall the main difference in the films comes down to tone. The Fellowship of the Ring is darker with more focus on the presence of evil (since the ring is the focus) whereas An Unexpected Journey focuses more on being a light adventure. Both films end of relatively high notes. No one dies at the end of An Unexpected Journey (sorry Sean Bean) but Thorin comes near death in a scene that is set up incredibly similar to Lurtz’s execution of Boromir. Are the two movies exactly the same: no. Is it valid to like one and not the other: sure. But you have to admit, they are quite similar in terms of their setup.

For any out there who still doubt me, I encourage watching the two films together… followed by The Two Towers and The Return of the King (extended editions of course) cause why not? As we look ahead to the next two Hobbit films, I can’t help but wonder if the trend will continue. I’m calling it right now: The Desolation of Smaug will end on a down note. Smaug will be destroyed, signifying the end of a great battle (like Helms Deep) and a new, more powerful threat (the Necromancer) will take center stage. Just a prediction.

Thoughts? Comments? Am I full of it or onto something? Let me know now in the feedback section of this article.

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