Tuesday, December 30, 2014

5 Thoughts on “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”

For my final post of 2014, I’ll offer my thoughts on the final installment in The Hobbit series and what will likely be our last visit to the Middle Earth envisioned by Peter Jackson. So, without further ado . . .

Two movies would have been enough.

 1. This should have been a 2-movie series

I’m now firmly convinced that stretching The Hobbit into three films was a mistake from a storytelling perspective (although it may have been brilliant from a revenue perspective). While the movie covers roughly the last third of Tolkien’s work, the actual Battle of the Five Armies is only a single chapter in the book. Yet it takes up most of the screen-time in this film and frankly felt like the most drawn out battle in movie history.

Had The Hobbit been a two-film series, this movie could have begun with the escape from the elves, included the wonderful scenes with Smaug in the Lonely Mountain, and concluded with a spectacular Battle of the Five Armies. Of course, Jackson would have been forced to cut out all the fat he inserted to stretch the movies into three parts. But that would have been a good thing.

This could be the longest battle ever filmed!

2. The best part was the first scene

Let’s face it, Smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, was the best thing about the second film, and he’s the best thing about the third film too. Unfortunately, Bard slays Smaug in what is effectively the movie’s prologue, even before the opening credits. The dragon’s attack on Lake Town was brilliantly portrayed, and the dialogue between Smaug and Bard was perfect. Sadly, the rest of the movie never lives up to this first scene. This could have all been avoided in a two-film series, where Smaug’s entire story would have dominated the middle of the show.
Once again, Smaug steals the show.

3. The madness of Thorin was well done

After the first scene, the best part of the movie mirrored one of the best parts of the book, namely how Thorin’s greed upon claiming Smaug’s golden horde begins to drive him mad, to the point where he’s willing to go to war with the elves and men. Richard Armitage did a fine job with Thorin in this series, who has the most compelling character arch in Tolkien’s book.

Richard Armitage is damn good in his role.

4. I don’t know what to make of that scene in Dol Guldur

I was a fan of Jackson’s decision to include the scenes with the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, which are only hinted of in Tolkien’s The Hobbit. From the appendix in The Return of the King, however, we know that the Necromancer was actually Sauron, having returned to Middle Earth. He ruled from Dol Guldur until he was driven away by The White Council, which included Galadriel, Gandalf, Elrond, and Saruman. 

To me, including the scenes in Dol Guldur transformed The Hobbit into a true prequel to The Lord of the Rings. But the way the final scene unfolded in this film seemed bizarre. Sauron appears in the sky wearing his armor from the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. Beneath him, clad in their kingly garb, is a line of floating Ringwraiths that looked like the spinning diamonds on a cheesy slot machine display or a bad video game. The CGI just didn’t look right. To me, the giant flaming eye from the Lord of the Rings films would have been a far better image. To make the scene even stranger, Galadriel turns the color of a Smurf and basically screams at them until they go away. Needless to say, this scene left me shaking my head.

I prefer Galadriel when she isn't impersonating Smurfette.

5. Farewell to Middle Earth

As in the novel, the end of The Hobbit takes Bilbo back to the Shire. The scenes of his final journey with Gandalf and the images of the Shire reminded me how fortunate we’ve been that Peter Jackson was able to bring Middle Earth to life. Even when the movies weren’t great (like the last two in this series), it was still a joy to spend a few hours in Middle Earth. I can’t imagine that Tolkien’s The Silmarillion will be made into a film, so this appears to be the end. I am going to miss these annual journeys to Middle Earth. Fortunately, we can still get there on Blu-ray!

* Images courtesy of TheHobbit.com

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