‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ vs. ‘Fellowship of the Ring’

Published 2 years ago by , Updated December 19th, 2012 at 6:56 am,

The Story

hobbit journey fellowship ring story The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey vs. Fellowship of the Ring

An Unexpected Journey is novelistic in design; it unfolds in chapter-like segments, most of which progress the central narrative thread (and others which place out the groundwork for future Middle-earth installments). By comparison, Fellowship is action-reaction oriented and thus, adheres closer to a conventional three-act film structure. Overall, though, there are actually numerous plot points and elements in the two films that mirror one another, including:

  • Opening prologue with narration from a character whose POV informs the story (Older Bilbo vs. Galadriel), followed by a subtitle “The Shire… 60 Years Earlier” vs. “…60 Years Later.”
  • Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) visits a reserved and uninterested young Bilbo in An Unexpected Journey vs. the friendly reunion with older Bilbo (Ian Holm) in Fellowship.
  • Leaving The Shire segues into a subplot involving another wizard (Radagast in Mirkwood and Saruman in Isengard, respectively).
  • Cross-country chase sequence (with orcs in An Unexpected Journey, Nazgul in Fellowship) culminates with the central characters arriving in Rivendell.

And so forth. Nonetheless, An Unexpected Journey‘s layout allows for prolonged enjoyment of the intimate details that distinguish its familiar (formulaic) fantasy-adventure sequences; Fellowship, by comparison, is somewhat “chewy” and packs in so much material (side-plots, supporting characters) it can be overwhelming on an initial viewing. Some (many?) prefer the chunkier narrative, but The Hobbit‘s less-is-more choice is welcomed by me.

Trolls in The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey 570x242 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey vs. Fellowship of the Ring

The famous Troll Encounter in ‘An Unexpected Journey’

On the other hand, Fellowship does have a drive and immediacy that events in An Unexpected Journey do not possess; the sense of constant danger is taxing, but exhilarating. Moreover, the former does not suffer from the anti-climactic ending to the first Hobbit installment (following the escape from the Goblin tunnels, that is); though, that sequence does serve a purpose in terms of character development, it flails more than necessary, for a handful of reasons.

WINNER: Fellowship of the Ring, for more satisfactory “falling action.”

The World

hobbit fellowship middle earth The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey vs. Fellowship of the Ring

An Unexpected Journey and Fellowship of the Ring unfold in the same fantastical realm, yet Middle-earth in these films feels like two entirely-different settings. In the former, it’s a world at peace; one where daily life consists of difficulties, but nothing of a world-threatening nature. Moreover, Middle-earth in An Unexpected Journey feels richer and more properly-realized. Case in point: we bear witness to the tiny creatures that populate the woodlands; orcs speak in their native tongue among themselves (meanwhile, Goblins and Trolls actually speak); even Elvish and Dwarfish culture is legitimately portrayed, through the scenes set in Rivendell, the opening prologue and the behavior/appearances of Bilbo’s companions.

Fellowship, by comparison, does not fail to envelope viewers in Tolkien’s magical kingdom; part of the installment’s enduring appeal is how it creates a living and breathing Middle-earth. However, such locations as the heavenly Elvish locales (Rivendell, Lothlórien), organic Shire and the decaying, hellish caverns of Moria are gorgeous to behold, but Fellowship just has less time to devote to an appreciation of Middle-earth’s diverse cultures; thus, they have less of a voice than in An Unexpected Journey.

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Rivendell 570x314 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey vs. Fellowship of the Ring

Rivendell in ‘An Unexpected Journey’

Much of the propulsive energy and relentless sense of danger that drives the action in Fellowship comes from the setting (“The world has changed,” Galadriel narrates somberly during the opening titles). An Unexpected Journey has the opportunity to relish in the experience of visiting Middle-earth. Indeed, it can be a silly, exciting or quiet place, depending on where you’re at and who’s in the area (“I’ve found it is the small things, every act of normal folk that keeps the darkness at bay,” notes Gandalf during an exchange with Galadriel in An Unexpected Journey).

Winner: An Unexpected Journey.

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    • John!Johnny!Johny boy!Based solely on your comments…Your name here should be John The Drunk!Because your comment made absolutely zero sense if any!

      • He doesn’t seem drunk, but you do. I completely agree with his comment. It’s like the difference between the Tyrannosaurus in Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” and the Tyrannosaurus in the original Jurassic park. One looks real, like it is actually happening right in front of you, and the other looks like CGI, like it is just a bunch of animation. Not to mention all the big falls and physically unrealistic scenes where characters get up without a scratch gives the Hobbit more similarity to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies than to Fellowship of the Ring…

  1. Gandalf says Lotr is the best you fools.!

  2. From my viewpoint, The Hobbit is a disgrace to the LOTR trilogy, especially after 10 years. I had to re-watch The Fellowship (in standard DVD format unlike the Super HD X 5 zillion megapixel IMAX 3D blah blah Hobbit version) just to be sure I wasn’t overreacting. The first five minutes of The Fellowship validated my disdain for The Hobbit.

    Hopefully, the next installments will be a better.