Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tolkien Month Part 4: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

     Let me just say right off the bat that I love “The Lord of the Rings” much more than “The Hobbit”. The movies, I mean, not the books. The books are all pretty much on the same level, and that’s pretty high. But I found the “LOTR” movies much better than “An Unexpected Journey” (and I presume “The Desolation of Smaug” and “There and Back Again”) because the “LOTR” was constantly moving with story. I didn’t get that feeling with “An Unexpected Journey”. Because of that, this article will be a little shorter, to eliminate some of the unnecessary details.

     In “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, we meet a younger Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) living comfortably in his Hobbit-home in the Shire. But one day, a strange visitor approaches him: it’s Gandalf the Grey, asking Bilbo to “share in an adventure”. Later, Bilbo learns (after a bunch of dwarves arrive at his doorstep that night) that the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor has been overtaken by a dragon known as Smaug (played by… well, we’ll get to him next week). Gandalf and his team of dwarves are committed to taking the kingdom back, and they need Bilbo’s help to do it.

     Why Bilbo? Um… I forget why they need him, honestly. But whatever, Bilbo is eventually convinced somehow to join the dwarves on their quest. On their way, they encounter many dangers, including three trolls eager to cook and eat them, approaching Orcs, and eventually Gollum in his cave, currently in possession of the Ring of Power. I know I’m skipping several details in-between, but in my opinion, director Peter Jackson should have done that for me.

     Anyway, one of the reasons why I wanted to write about Christ-like examples in films based off of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work is because not only did I find them in “The Lord of the Rings”, but I also found them in “The Hobbit”. There are two examples in this film that I found to be particularly interesting.

     The first one is Gandalf the Grey (I know I talked about Gandalf in “The Two Towers”, but that was technically Gandalf the White). When he approaches Bilbo in the beginning of the film about joining him on this “adventure”, it reminded me a ton of how Jesus called his disciples. He literally met them where they were, whether that was in their neighborhoods or workplaces or wherever, and he simply asked them to join him in His “adventure” of sorts.

     In the Gospel of Matthew, one of the first accounts of this is when he calls Simon Peter and Andrew as they are fishing: “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’” (4:19) Jesus met these two men, and the other disciples, where they were, and he invited them along for the “adventure” of a lifetime. When Gandalf approaches Bilbo in “An Unexpected Journey” and does pretty much the same thing, it’s a powerful scene.

     And on the other side of that, the other example of a Christ-like figure that I see in this movie is Bilbo himself. I’ve talked before in the blog and in this series about how Christ was both fully God and fully man. That means he had to constantly make choices to forsake the temptation of sin and follow God’s will. Making that decision daily and ultimately living without sin for thirty-three years was certainly hard—but thank God that He did!

     Similarly, Bilbo Baggins ultimately has a choice. He can continue to live comfortably in his Hobbit-home in the Shire, free from danger and fear, and possibly miss out on a life-changing opportunity. Or he can choose to step out of his comfort zone and do his part to save an entire population, while learning a lot more about himself and others in the process. If I were given that choice, it would be hard to turn down the comfortable life. But getting out of my comfort zone is the only way that I grow—and ultimately, Bilbo realizes this.

     At the end of the movie, when Bilbo has briefly been separated from the rest as he finds Gollum and the Ring, Bilbo returns, and Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the leader of the dwarves (I guess I should have mentioned him earlier…) asks why he came back. Bilbo responds:

BILBO: I know you doubt me. I know you always have. And you're right. I often think of Bag-End. I miss my books, and my armchair, and my garden. See, that's where I belong, that's home. That's why I came back—because you don't have one, a home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can.

     When Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying before his arrest, he pleads to God and asks that if there is any other way to save humanity other than His death on the cross, make it so. But ultimately, he surrenders: “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42b) And my prayer is that like Bilbo Baggins, we would be willing to leave our comfort zone and surrender to our Father’s will, that he may use us in ways which we cannot even imagine.

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