What did we think? We both really enjoyed it and wouldn't mind seeing it again. It was a great return to Peter Jackson's vision of Middle-earth and several of the beloved characters from the previous Lord of the Rings films. As the resident Lord of the Rings Online writer here at Massively, I couldn't help walking away from the theater with an increased desire to log back into the game and perhaps roll a new character.
Maybe a Dwarf.
It's no secret that Dwarves are not exactly the most popular race in LotRO. I don't have access to the game's metrics, but I'm willing to speculate that they hold the number four spot on that list and have for some time. I rarely see one in game (or Hobbits, for that matter) and feel slightly guilty that I've never really stuck with one past, oh, level 5.
Really, if they looked as cool as they did in the movie, I would be all over that. I was wondering how Jackson would handle 13 (!) Dwarves and make them all look visually distinct, but that he did. Plus, they're not the insanely plump garage mechanics that are in the game, just shorter and stronger people.
Even so, I predict a bump in the interest of Dwarves in the game. The Hobbit (book and movie) is really the Dwarves' time to shine, and it's good to see them get this publicity as something other than a punchline for Elves. The movie definitely shows off three of the Dwarves' classes (Champion, Guardian, and Hunter) and gives them a much richer and more interesting backstory. What's even better is that they're shown being total badasses, just in a different vein than the other races.
I'm also wondering whether Burglars might come into vogue in the game, as Bilbo takes the center stage in the film instead of a cameo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Eh, probably not. That class seems destined for an underdog status.
With remote looting, the Moria revamp, and other recent improvements, I might just have to roll up a stout ally and see if I can get into the fine art of bashing kneecaps.
One of the coolest aspects of the movie is that it takes place in regions of the world that we're quite familiar with in the game. It spans the length of the Shire to the edge of the Misty Mountains and includes Goblin-town, Gollum's cave, the trolls' camp, Bilbo's house, and Rivendell. There's also a certain nature-loving wizard in the film whom we gamers are quite familiar with, although they certainly don't seem much alike.
I found myself pleasantly surprised by finding out just how much Middle-earth knowledge I had accumulated over the years of playing LotRO while watching the film. When Gandalf started in on the story of Bullroarer Took, I knew pretty much everything he was going to say (could ride a horse, started golf). Locations, characters, and events all clicked hard. It is a testament to the lore wizards at Turbine that so much has been passed on to me, and I found myself enjoying the film on a slightly deeper level because of it.
So even while the visual aesthetic of the film is a lot different the game and the movie took plenty of liberties with the book, it wasn't hard to recognize the places and people I've seen from the game.
And tell me I'm not the only person who saw Bilbo lose his buttons in the movie and thought, "Hey, I found all of those for you! Because of the deed!"
Differences aside, the movie and the MMO both share a love for Tolkien's story and a love for the world he created. Even if they're interpreted or arranged a little differently, there's a spirit behind both projects that seeks to honor rather than desecrate his works. Many of us play Lord of the Rings Online because we genuinely care about the world and this is the closest that we can get to living in it. A movie gives you a couple of hours of on-the-rails escapism, but an MMO provides hundreds of hours of choose-your-own-adventures.
One common thread that binds both movie and MMO together is an appreciation for Tolkien's use of song and music. This is a huge motif in his books, and it was great to see how the film featured several of The Hobbit's songs (as an aside, so did the 1977 animated adaptation of The Hobbit). This is something that we see quite often in LotRO, whether it be the power of the Minstrel's tunes, the bards that litter populated centers, the player music system, or the occasional song written into dialogue or quest text.
One line from the movie stuck out at me. It's when Bilbo asks Gandalf at the beginning, "Can you promise that I will come back?"
"No," Gandalf replies. "And if you do, you will not be the same."
This resonated with the gamer in me because I've always felt that my character has been on this multi-year journey, growing older, wiser, and perhaps more damaged with every passing mile. I'm no longer the green-behind-the-ears Captain I was in the beginning; I'm now a battle-hardened veteran of Angmar, Moria, Mirkwood, and other places where Valar fear to tread. I'm not the same because the journey has changed me. Or changed my character. Sorry, sometimes the veil between reality and fiction grows thin.
In fact, the entire plot of The Hobbit should strike a chord in all of us. We all began our journeys in the peaceful settlements of Middle-earth, only to be taken away from our comforts and thrust into precarious situation after precarious situation. Like Bilbo, we're on an epic quest that may or may not end when we reach a certain mountain. Like Bilbo, we came on the promise of adventure.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a shirtless Dwarf to create. I think I'll name him Thr... Fr... Stain. With those fancy triple dots over the "a."
When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.