en years ago this month, Peter Jackson's film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring hit theaters. Two epic sequels followed, as did 17 Academy Awards. Now, Jackson is back with the first trailer for his adaption of the Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit. (Watch it below.) The book will be broken into two films, and the first — The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — will be released in December 2012. That's a long ways off, but already, the trailer is getting critics excited. Here, five things they're buzzing about:
1. The nostalgic familiarity
"Is it possible to feel nostalgia for something that is only a decade old?" says Gilbert Cruz at TIME. It must be, because Jackson's new trailer elicits the warm-and-fuzzies by seamlessly transporting us back to Middle-earth. There's the familiar sets (Bag-End, the Shire), familiar characters (Gandalf, Galadriel, and Gollum), notes of the rousing Oscar-winning score, and the soaring helicopter tracking shots of the New Zealand countryside that defined Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.
2. The cheery tone
As source material, The Hobbit is more challenging to adapt to film than the Lord of the Rings saga was, says Ben Kuchera at Ars Technica. "The book has few tonal shifts, and it can seem deeply silly at times." The "lighter, almost slapstick feel" in parts of the trailer fits that tone. Indeed, Tolkien's The Hobbit is starkly different from the darker books that followed, says Ben Child at the U.K.'s Guardian, employing "a gentle, often whimsical children's yarn with an almost Brothers Grimm-like quality." That could turn off viewers who may find The Hobbit "even more ridiculous" than the Lord of the Rings films.
3. The dark touches
In the book, Bilbo Baggins encounters giant spiders, orcs, goblins, and other harrowing obstacles on his way to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. Appropriately, the trailer at least touches on the life-threatening nature of the journey, as "things get somber" toward the end of the clip, says Kuchera. Indeed, several "dark and chilling moments" are previewed, says Bruna Nessif at E! Online, hinting that The Hobbit will still boast some of the Lord of the Rings saga's memorable thrills.
4. The worrying use of Tolkien's songs
As readers of Tolkien's books know, the author devotes "a great many pages to song lyrics," which characters sing on their travels, says Josh Tyler at Cinema Blend. Jackson incorporated these songs, somewhat awkwardly, into his Lord of the Rings films, and does it again in the Hobbit trailer, suggesting that music will play a prominent role in the movie. The dwarves sing a plodding song titled "Misty Mountains," and "I'm not quite sure" it works, says Child. The singing was "cringeworthy" in the first three films, and Jackson is, unfortunately, "embracing the twee" once again.
5. The absence of action
"Every shot in the trailer is breathtaking," says Eric Eisenberg at Cinema Blend. It may not have featured "any epic battles or hordes of orcs," but what it "lacked in action it more than made up for with beauty and an insane amount of nostalgia." Still, "I can't help but feel a teensy bit underwhelmed," says Becky Kirsch at Buzz Sugar. While "the production value looks amazing," the clip is all introduction and low on action and excitement. Luckily, there's still "a whole year to build up the hype." See for yourself:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why is American internet so slow?
- 7 ways to be the most interesting person in any room
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Colorado’s new ‘drive high, get a DUI’ commercials are actually pretty clever
- SNL tackles Vladimir Putin's Ukraine invasion, politically and personally
- Who are the real gay marriage bigots?
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Sorry Belle Knox, porn still oppresses women
- Ukraine's fraught relationship with Russia: A brief history
Subscribe to the Week