One Last Review… For the Hobbit
I know that I have not posted anything in a long while but I feel that the time for me to make my opinions known has come once again.
It is finished. The great odyssey has been completed. Our journeys now have ended. The final trip to Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth has taken place. The question remains, how was it?
“The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies” in my opinion has been the best of the three Hobbit films. Sir Peter Jackson rediscovered some of the magic he had while filming “The Lord of the Rings”. Does this mean that this film is perfect? Heavens no, this film has some rather massive flaws but they do not achieve the level of silliness that I witnessed while watching “The Desolation of Smaug”.
Let’s begin with the hate shall we?
C. G. I. Oh merciful heavens, the CGI. This has been one of my biggest complaints through all three movies. Why was every other character in these movies a computer animation. I understand the trolls and some of the other monsters but every orc and even one of the dwarves? One of the things we fans adored about “The Lord of the Rings” was how real it looked. The makeup on the actors and extras who played orcs and Uruk-hai was amazing and terrifying. CGI no matter how good it is tends to be a bit sterile looking. I don’t know whether they thought they could make all of these characters computer animations because of their success with Gollum or if it was a matter of cost effectiveness but if I wanted to watch a movie where most of the characters are fancy cartoons I think I will go watch “Avatar” instead.
Next target, pacing. This isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds and I know because of the story, yes I have read the book, several times in fact, that it had to happen this way but it sure seems that after all the build up of the last movie Smaug’s wrath doesn’t last very long. The great wyrm that destroyed kingdoms goes out to rampage and about fifteen to twenty minutes later he gasps his last after destroying nothing more than a little town built on rafts. I understand that all of the destruction and death was a tragedy but this great terror of the north was extremely out of practice. After this the film does settle down and achieve a reasonable gait.
Ridiculous action sequences. Of course, how could this film not have them? However, I do have to say that these were toned down from the previous film and the great majority of them involved the super, magical, ninja elves, but only the ones that are main characters, all other elves die like everyone else. We continue to see the great battle prowess of such renowned Elven leaders like Thranduil, and Legolas, and Tauriel… Wait who? Alright, so I’m still a little irked that they took “unnamed elf” from the novel and turned it into Kate from “Lost”. I find myself a little more forgiving of the over the top action from the elves because if I was nearly superhuman to start with and had a minimum several hundred years to hone my skills, how good would I be? I still don’t think that I could run up a makeshift stairway of stone blocks falling a thousand feet to the ground though.
Plot holes? Oh yeah, there were a couple of those. Most notably is the one where in the middle of a great fight Dwalin who is fighting near Thorin seemingly disappears into thin air and leaves his king to fend for himself. I find myself wondering if this will be addressed in the extended edition but it was a glaring error to make in a theatrical release. Also while the battle is raging and all looks lost here comes that shape shifting bear guy, who was in the second movie for all of about two minutes, to help save the day. Yes, I know his name is Beorn but his presence in these films has been so miniscule who but a die hard fan would remember. His appearance in this film makes the scene at his house feel like an hours long dialogue session. Here he jumps from the back of an eagle, turns into a bear, starts killing orcs, and then we never see him again. His total time on screen was maybe ten seconds. A stupid thing to do with a fairly important character.
Last but not least is where my nerd rage kicks in. If I ever have the fortune of meeting anyone involved with the writing in this movie I will need to ask one question. WHY DIDN’T YOU HAVE THE EAGLES SPEAK!!??? The eagles have become the running joke of a deus ex machina in all of the Middle Earth films. We need rescuing from some terrible situation… Oh look here come the eagles. So much of the hilarity that has ensued from people making fun of this fact could have been avoided if it had been clear to the audience that the great eagles were sentient and had their own concerns and were offering what aid they could. In fact because they are sentient is why they were considered one of the five armies in the battle at the end of the book and this movie. Maybe they thought that talking eagles would just appear stupid but this is the same cinematic universe where we had walking, talking trees. It wouldn’t have taken much film either. Just have a line where Gwaihir, leader of the eagles, tells Gandalf, “I’m sorry, my friend, but this is as far as I can take you. My folk have other pressing affairs to the north.” Or something like that. Instead we have had over a decade of ridicule and laughter.
I could go on with some other minor issues but I would much rather talk about the things that I liked in this film.
I think the biggest thing done right in this film was the presentation of and the interaction between the characters. Thranduil, for example, is much more sympathetic in this film. He still remains something of an ass but he is definitely not a villainous character. He actions truly are to protect and care for his people and he offers much needed aid to the displaced people of Lake-town without being asked. He comes to claim part of the dragon hoard that belongs to him and realistically it isn’t much. He just wants a necklace that is implied either to have belonged to his deceased wife or it had been made for her. He also offers to help the humans claim what Thorin had promised to give them. He is not an individual filled with hate but with sorrow and bitterness instead. He is willing to go to war with the dwarves but when the orc army appears he fights with them against this evil foe.
The actual biggest jerk in the movie is Thorin. We get to watch him fighting with the dragon sickness and his own greed now that he has reclaimed the mountain. It gets so bad that he is willing to kill his own friends and companions over what he perceives as insults and theft. It is good to see his nobility restored as he is able to break free of his madness and stand with his allies against Azog’s forces. His death scene and reconciliation with Bilbo is extremely well done and uses several lines very similar to the novel.
Gandalf is once again played flawlessly by Sir Ian McKellen. His wisdom and strength summed up in one scene where a distraught and weary Bilbo comforted by Gandalf sits down next to him and proceeds to clean out his pipe. No dialogue necessary. A stunning Cate Blanchett shows off the strength, wisdom, and beauty that encompasses the Lady Galadriel. My biggest concern though is after watching all of these movies is that in this cynical day and age viewers may be tempted to believe that there was more than just a platonic love between Gandalf and Galadriel. It is a sign of the times that I even noticed it to bring it up.
My favorite scene in the film has nothing to do with the novel but with the appendices. It is the scene where the White Council banishes Sauron from Dol Guldur. It was an absolute joy to watch Elrond, Saruman, and Galadriel rescue Gandalf and then battle Sauron and his ringwraiths. Christopher Lee and Hugo Weaving are as brilliant as ever and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Saruman, at the height of his power and protector of the free peoples, go kung fu wizard on the Nazgul. I thought it was a great way to show that the wizards were something more than human. Their apparent age in a way being a disguise. One could see Saruman’s arrogance and potential for corruption but it had not fully taken hold yet. I also liked the fact that outside of their robes each ringwraith had a unique appearance probably relating to the culture they had come from.
I seem to have run out of things to talk about and it may seem like the things I disliked outweigh the aspects I did enjoy. This is not the case but like so many other people I find it much easier to go on at length about the things that upset me.
While I may not agree with every choice that Sir Peter Jackson has made with these films he did achieve one of the main things he was striving for and he probably felt while making them, nostalgia. I would like to offer my thanks to Peter Jackson and all those who worked with him for bringing to life Tolkien’s much loved world in a way that is definitive for this generation. For giving Christopher Lee, a huge Tolkien fan, a chance to be a part of this world. For showing us a world that many of us would like to live in even if it is the simple peaceful life of the Shire. Thank you for allowing us to follow you into this world one last time.
And now my friends if I may use a line from the film, “Farewell, my friends. Go back to your books, your fireplace. Plant your trees, watch them grow. If more of us valued home above gold, it would be a merrier world. “