Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Hobbit Films: A Retrospective

Right, I think it's been just about long enough for everyone to have seen, digested, and already posted about their opinions on Sir Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit. Time to go chasing the dust clouds of long-departed bandwagons!

Anyone who's been around on this blog for longer than a month knows how much of a demented Tolkien fan I am. Those who haven't just need to know this - I am the Treasurer of my university's Tolkien Society, and demand to be addressed, in an official capacity, as "Smaug, Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities".

So. Here we go.


 Much like Fellowship Of The Ring was to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I feel this is the strongest film overall. As dubious as I was about stretching a relatively short, if very full, book into three movies, An Unexpected Journey struck all the right tonal and visual notes that started to win me round.

The film's genuine tension and suspense - not to mention the glorious flashback scenes to the Battle of Azanulbizar - mingle perfectly with the stronger overtones of adventurous romp, and the humour used is very much within that spirit. The soundtrack isn't the most spectacular of the three, but "Misty Mountains" and "Blunt the Knives" are brilliantly true to the spirit of Tolkien's original lyrics, and Niel Finn's "Song of the Lonely Mountain" absolutely blows the other ending-credits songs out of the water.

This was the film that had me bounding out of the cinema in a paroxysm of delight, above and beyond all I had been expecting.



While it's a little hard to call, I think Desolation of Smaug is, overall, my favourite movie of the
trilogy. That said, it's also the biggest exemplar of the bits I didn't like.

On the upside, this film introduced many of my favourite aspects of the trilogy: the White Council and Mirkwood narratives highlighted and heightened many of the stakes surrounding the reclamation of the mountain, Bard the Bowman was expanded from a one-line dragonslayer-ex-machina into a compelling and complex hero, and the stunningly-rendered and superbly acted Smaug himself.

On the other hand, The Desolation of Smaug also seemed to be the point where much of the acting was overwhelmed by a couple of slightly ridiculous action sequences, and the dynamic between the comic and serious elements began to slip.

And then there were the elves. But that's for another time.



Perhaps this one was my fault. Perhaps I went into this film expecting too much, or perhaps I was too hard on it because I knew this was the last point in my lifetime, most likely, that Middle Earth will grace the silver screen. Either way, The Battle of The Five Armies was a massive disappointment.

Which is very sad, because some of my all-time favourite scenes are in this movie - the battle between Bard and Smaug in Laketown, and the banishment of Sauron from Dol Guldur. They, and the gloriously watchable Dain Ironfoot, saved this film from complete ruination.

Sadly, the battle itself failed to match up to the power and grit of the flashbacks from AUJ, the pivotal death scenes were rushed, and the abysmal pigeon-holing and undermining of Tauriel through the horrendous love triangle created a triad of flops that all led up to the biggest anticlimax of all; a flaccid and anticlimactic ending lacking in any of the spirit that had made its predecessors as good as they were.


My thoughts overall, then? Well, that's a little hard to say. They're a mixed bag, and on the occasion I go back and rewatch any or all of the given films, I feel a little differently every time. Overall, though, the elements I did like, I adored. Sadly, on the flip side, there were just enough weak elements to dispose me toward a less-than-favourable overall view.

Would I recommend them? Yes. Like I said, when they're great, they're great, undeniably. But, much like cookies, parental approval and tummy rubs, it's just not as good as The Lord Of The Rings.

But, of course, my opinion is not definitive, and if you would like to contend my judgements, feel free to do so in the comments! Or, if you like, ask me to develop my opinions, and I will no doubt unleash the full force of my Tolkien nerdistry in a later post to satisfy you. Or I may just do that anyway. You never know.

Either way - comment! Debate! But if we could keep the forging of magic rings to a minimum, I would be greatly appreciative.

~ Charley R

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