The first trailer for Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth was a little underwhelming. It looked pretty much exactly like Fellowship of the Ring and it had some dude (do not ask me to differentiate the people playing dwarves—can’t do it) singing a depressing dirge. But the second trailer is much, much more indicative of what The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be, and that is: funnier, lighter, and more free-spirited than The Lord of the Rings. Which is not to knock LOTR, but those movies started out kind of depressing and got steadily darker, and based on the new trailer, The Hobbit will be less heavy and end-of-the-world-y. For a movie that had an inauspicious start, The Hobbit is unquestionably going to be one of the biggest movies of the year—the only one left that can take on The Avengers for the title of “biggest of 2012”.
And I’m starting to get excited for it. I think it’s the way Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins says, “I’m going on an adventure!” To me, that’s the difference between LOTR and The Hobbit. LOTR was a quest, and The Hobbit is an adventure. We already know, because The Hobbit is a prequel, and that Bilbo and Gandalf and Galadriel, et cetera, come through this just fine. I’m not going to be all stressed and worried about the hero, like before when I was convinced that everyone was going to die by the end. I like the idea of getting to revisit this world without all the angst (but that doesn’t mean I want three of these things).
I’m wondering, though, if Freeman is ready for what’s about to happen to him. I know he’s already very successful, and I know how culturally hegemonic this sounds, but it is true—UK famous is not like what happens when you front a major Hollywood franchise. It’s the difference between being a college quarterback and an NFL quarterback. I watched it happen with LOTR; people who had very respectable careers exploded all over the world and HAD THEIR FACES ON AIRPLANES. To a man (and woman), they thought they were ready, and not a one of them, young or old, grasped how radically it would impact their daily lives. It was just a whole other level of crazy. To this day, the single most nuts event I’ve ever been to is the Return of the King premiere in 2003. You think Twilight is big? Harry Potter? Anything superhero? The King premiere was bigger. The red carpet wasn’t just long, it was a series of switchbacks to accommodate the press that arrived from all over the world. When I think of it, my ears start ringing from the memory of the deafening screaming from fans.
Then I look at Martin Freeman, affable, friendly Martin Freeman, who is, by all accounts, a wonderful, funny, acerbic guy, and I wonder—are you ready? Because as of December 14, your life, as you know it, is over. (Lainey: I can’t wait for this to happen if only to see how the exhaustingly narcissistic Benedict Cumberbatch deals with it. )