The road goes ever on and on-Things I liked about the last Hobbit film [SPOILERS]

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I’ve waited until now to make my judgement on the last Hobbit film (well, at least the written version of it). Overall, it wasn’t particularly easy. I liked the first Hobbit film, and I disliked the second one. The third movie, called “The Battle of the five armies” was kind of like a mix of the two. So, to keep this short….er, and to make it easy for myself, I’m gonna tackle the good things in this post, and then we’ll look at what went wrong after.

1. The acting

Some moments of the Hobbit films have been guilty of the worst acting in the entire Middle Earth franchise. Mostly this has been down to a bad script, and a lot of the rest of it is either poor casting choices (Billy Connolly? Stephen Fry??) or working the plot wrong. Even so, it’s actually been overwhelmingly positive. In the battle of the five armies (BOTFA), Martin Freeman (Bilbo) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf) give their usual five star performances, and it’s safe to say there will NEVER be another Gandalf quite like Ian.

Richard Armitage performs consistently as the dark and vengeful Thorin Oakenshield, who spends most of the movie lusting after the Arkenstone (or king’s jewel). Aidan Turner (Kili) and Ken Stott (Balin) play their respective role as dwarves in the company very well, and are given lots of screen time in this installment. Aidan Turner in particular has went from strength to strength with each movie, and he even somehow manages to improve on the overall feel of the elf/dwarf romance that is Tauriel and Kili. Himself and Richard Armitage stand out in the action scenes, with Graham McTavish (Dwalin) also good in this respect.

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I think one of the most memorable performances in the franchise is given by Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman, who is blessed with the liberty of far more to do than his paperback compatriot. His nemesis Smaug, who is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is also wonderfully portrayed, which brings me to my next point…

2. That first 40 or so minutes

It wasn’t until the second watch that I truly appreciated it, but the first half an hour/forty minutes of this film is actually well up there as a contender for the best portion of the trilogy, and even has a Lord of the Rings kinda flavour to it that has been so glaringly missing from these three movies.

There are many bad ways to start a film (or end it a la Desolation of Smaug), but BOTFA has to be an example of how to do the exact opposite. It opens with the imminent attack of Smaug on Laketown, which (and I rarely say this) is VISUALLY AMAZING. That’s right. These scenes was so well done that I couldn’t help but notice. The sequence is a bit marred by Stephen Fry, but other than that it is perfectly constructed. The interplay between Smaug and Bard gives the dragon the hubristic tone seen widely in the novel, and though in large sections of the trilogy the heroes seem impervious to danger, with these scenes there really is a constant threat raging amid the dragon fire. After the death of Smaug, we get a fitting introduction to Thorin’s lust and greed, and then it is off to Dol Guldur where in the second movie we saw Gandalf captured by the now revealed Sauron. The sudden arrival of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) sets up what is uncharted-but-touched-on territory in Tolkien’s work, with the concept of the White Council banishing Sauron being very real, but the execution of the scene obviously fabricated by Jackson et al. It turns out quite well on screen, outside of the epileptic inducing Sauron that has become a stereotype of this trilogy.

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3. location, location, location

It normally goes without saying that Middle Earth is beautifully represented by the New Zealand landscape, but hell, I’m gonna say it anyway. It is noticeable that there is far more CGI work in the landscape, yet even so, the city of Dale has an Osgiliath ruins-like feel to it, while Erebor itself is one of most vividly created parts of all six movies. Gundabad has a nice Cirith Ungol look to it, which for many LOTR fans was one of the best settings in the original films.  Dol Guldur is unique as compared to some of the other locations, and its effect is mirrored onto Mirkwood well to show the spread of Sauron’s sickness.

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4. Some of the action scenes

Although as a movie, there is way too much of a reliance on CGI, some of the action scenes do still have that LOTR effect. In particular Tauriel’s scene on Ravenhill was well constructed, and Thorin vs Azog on the sheet of ice was a great way to lead up to the finish. I think the most obvious reason the look of the battles (as well as their credibility) has improved is that Jackson cannot escape the ending of the book. It is inevitable that Kili, Fili and Thorin had to die, and so in the latter part of the movie there was more of a desperate feel in the battles with Azog and Bolg. Bard’s fight scenes alongside the other men of Laketown were reasonably well done, so that in the end they were not dissimilar from the Siege of Gondor fights in Return of the King. It was the “setup” parts of most battles that stood out, but once the armies engaged it was a little hard to keep track. Still, the battles hugely improved on Desolation of Smaug.

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5. The ending

The first time I watched this movie, I was really unhappy with the ending. I know people go on and on about the last LOTR film dragging on, but this ending felt like a purposeful attempt to do the opposite. The second time, it still is obvious the ending could use work. The resolution after Thorin’s death is far too quick, and much of the cast is just kind of rushed off screen. There is no real finishing of the Bard, Thranduil or Dain storyline. Saying all that, I think Bilbo and Thorin’s last scene was really well done, as was Gandalf’s goodbye to Bilbo. Including the auction when Bilbo arrived home was a definite boost for the “there and back” theme of the whole thing. The final scene, which is one of the opening scenes of the Fellowship of the Ring looked at from within Bilbo’s house, was a touching (albeit slightly cheesy) note to end on. It was not a bad way to end it, and they did provide the link between the trilogies they wanted.

Next time, I’ll look at all the bad things, which is likely gonna be a much longer blog with far less structure. Until then.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Below is a completely unedited, unaltered stream of thoughts about my day as it unfolds. Some of it will not make sense. I don’t know why I’m documenting this, but here goes.

The clock just passed twelve, and St.Stephen’s Day is over. I’m standing in the Bailey, and I’ve just raised my voice so the woman behind the bar knows I want 3 jaegerbombs. I want three bombs, and cash back. I like the Bailey. I love cream. It’s fitting that Baileys and Cream is a real thing, but I’ve never tried it, so I digress.

I have my three bombs lined up like I’m going to war, and know I’m not coming back. Two fellas next to me think I’ve marbles rolling around in my head. But I don’t. I know the power in this payload, and despite their efforts, these fellas are having none of it. I pick up my bombs like fucking Gatsby with a wine glass and bid them good night.

Half twelve, the bailey is still empty.

One O’clock, still fairly empty. I love it. Three hours of space, and room to move. You could play a fucking five-a-side in the Bailey there’s so much room to manouevre.

At two, it’s off to Hillbillys. I’m inside, and the man behind the counter is looking at me like I want a five chicken tender meal. Not so fast Hill Bill Volume II, I’ll have myself Taco Fries and a Spicy Chilli Cheese wrap. Talk about a la fucking carte dining. 2 minutes later my “rumblies” are being appeased by authentic Mexican delicacies.

By the time I get home I’m fresher than the cold. I’m operating the house alarm like I manufactured the fucking thing. There’s no button smashing here. Oh no. This is red wire-blue wire type precision. With the house done up like fort fucking knox, it’s off to bed.

I’m up the next morning and I must have left the hangover at the door. Head feels like marshmallow. The pink ones-none of that white shit here. My bed is the hot chocolate, and I don’t even care if I’m melting. I’ll be that witch in the wizard of Oz because I’ve got my laptop and three bars of wifi access. You’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy.

Fresh and ready by two. Time to go to work.

By work I mean into town. There’s a book to be returned. When I go to replace it, I see the new book is half price. Up to the counter I walk like I wrote The Wind in the Willows last weekend. So that’s the new book in the bank and 10 euro coming my way. Cheque please.

10 euro richer on Patrick’s Street feels like I just dropped a new album. Before I know it I’m in Jack and Jones with a 50 euro bonus card from work. They tell me they’ll take the card, I tell them I’ll take 110 euro worth of goods for 53. With the bonus card, I’m only coughing out 3 euro from the bank. Walk out of there like fucking Bradley Cooper in Limitless

By this stage I know I’ve got the motherfucking touch today. I’ve got everything I came for but I almost feel like ad libbing this town venture. Whose to say how many shops I could swindle. The Great Train Robbery Christmas special.

I’m no common fool though, I can Kenny Rogers this and “know when to fold’em”. So I’m off to get me some coffee. Go into Gloria Jeans and there’s white chocolate mocha on the menu. Can’t even fathom any other words they could put in there to make that item better. Coffee in hand I think I’m gonna walk right outta here like Inside Man. But I’m not. Instead I sit there. In ten minutes I’ve got three bestseller book ideas and a belly full of heat. Like Frodo to Sam though; “There’s room for a little more”. So I walk outside into the air with the last of my coffee like I’m gonna find my partner and solve a murder. Instead, I’m walking under a ferris wheel and the city library. I feel like Rockafella with a cup o’legal street high. I built this fucking city.

Running total says I just went into town and came out with a three euro cash surplus. Somewhere in the past, Kyle is balancing a balance sheet in third year business. He smiles. He fucking knows: money.

When I get home I’m told I’m going to see the Hobbit again. I’m feeling so good I think, fuck it, throw me in as the sixth army. With my luck today I’ll have that movie wrapped up in twenty minutes. Meanwhile, it’s time to kick back and watch Harry Potter 3 and write a blog. Oh shit. I am not THAT good am I? This piece just became circular (just like Harry Potter 3). Read the title of the blog: It’s a wonderful life. NO. Sit down. Another circular movie.

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