MARSHALL - "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" premiered at the Marshall 6 Theatre at one minute past midnight Friday, so as one might expect the audience was made up of the truly diehard fans, some in costume.
The film is the first of a trilogy based on the classic fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, and will be continued in "The Desolation of Smaug" (2013) and "There and Back Again" (2014).
The audience was mostly young people, high school and college age, so most of them would have been children when the last installment of "The Lord of the Rings" came out in 2003. Some have read the books, some know Tolkien mostly through the movies.
Photo by Steve Browne
Members of the Southwest Minnesota State University football team showed up for the midnight premier of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” dressed as their favorite wizards. Gannon Moore as Gandalf the Grey, Mason Hammerlund as Saruman the White. Ben Pederson of Eau Claire, Wis., couldn’t find a blue costume and came in green.
Tolkien fans came to the theater with high hopes.
"I read 'The Hobbit' a few times," said Marshall High School senior Aaron Tyson. "I saw 'The Lord of the Rings,' and it was very, very good. I expect 'The Hobbit' to be good, though I don't expect it to be super fast paced at first."
Classmate Lucas Chesley also had high hopes.
"I'm expecting it to be a great introduction to 'The Lord of the Rings' and help fill in some of the gaps,"?he said.
Katy Rabaey works the concession stand at the Marshall 6 and had already seen the movie before the official premier. She read "The Hobbit" in grade school.
"I thought it was really good, with just some parts they should have touched up (visually)" Rabaey said. "The language is really modern though, unlike 'The Lord of the Rings.'"
Several members of the Southwest Minnesota State University football team showed up dressed as their favorite wizards. Many SMSU football players it seems are fantasy literature fans with definite opinions about the genre.
"We're all football players," said Mason Hammerlund from Orono. "So you can totally get the nerdiness of football."
Gannon Moore of Sioux Falls, S.D., came dressed as Gandalf the Grey.
"I've been into Tolkien ever since my mom read him to me as a kid," Moore said. "We're wondering how many of the songs they put in and where the cutoff is."
Among fans of the fantasy genre of literature, Tolkien's work inevitably invites comparisons with the Narnia series by his friend C.S. Lewis. There are people who like both, and people who love one and loathe the other.
"Lewis is OK," said Hammerlund. "While Tolkien was writing an allegory on Christianity, Lewis was working through why he became a Christian from an atheist."
It is known that Tolkien himself didn't think much of Narnia and this caused some strain in their friendship.
"They say Tolkien got the idea of Treebeard's booming voice from hearing Lewis lectures down the hallway," Moore said.
Rabaey said she thought Lewis and Tolkien appeal to different age groups.
"Lewis is for children to build their imagination," Rabaey said. "Lewis creates a world, where Tolkien uses things which are already created."
Rabaey pointed out Tolkien invented the languages and geography of Middle Earth before writing the stories set in it.
After sitting through almost three hours of the film, the audience came away satisfied and looking forward to the next installment.
"I really liked how they stayed true to the book," Moore said. "It's much brighter, 'The Lord of the Rings' had a feeling of impending doom."
"I liked how it was brighter," Hammerlund said. "I think a difference is, 'The Lord of the Rings' was a quest. 'The Hobbit' was an adventure."