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

The-Hobbit-The-Battle-of-the-Five-Armies-banner-5

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.

hobbit_the_battle_of_the_five_armies_dragon_poster

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.

867e7643c18ed8583b76c21a9e02ecbd876ad85b

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.

latest

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.

download (7)

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.

Reaction to “The Hobbit:The Desolation of Smaug” official trailer

Just seen it. Admittedly I thought it was something from a couple months back I’ve already seen. But this was all different. Good different…….? I’m not so sure. I’m a big Tolkien fan. Honestly it was the movies that got me into it. Realistically how many eight year olds dive into a book that big anyway. By big I mean The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is actually a pretty easy read. So when I saw the ad and decided that perhaps it was new and deserved two minutes of my time, it’s fair to say I was still somewhat excited (even if it was the old trailer). Afterwards I had mixed emotions. On the whole it looks more of the same from last year, which in general was “Well that is a fun,not-too-ridiculous adaption of a good Tolkien novel”. That being said the movie last year got away with a lot of stuff that fans were happy to brush over in favour of seeing big screen versions of their favourite books. But with the series already coming under heavy criticism for running into three monumental sized pieces, this time the producers could be less lucky.

Even from the first few seconds the massive excitement comes from hearing Martin Freeman coolly act out more of the lines of Bilbo Baggins. Playing the lead in the series, Freeman made much of the first movie better than it probably was. He’s got a certain connection to his character that makes Ian Mckellen seem to be in two places at once. But the excitement soon starts drowning in a couple of “really…..that?”. The first big thing the movie could flop in is TOO MUCH ELVES. My god, anybody who reads the book is like “why is Legolas here?” Granted the choice isn’t too farfetched with the storyline and serves to bring in more fans, but the fact that he features so much in even two minutes has me worried. There seems to be a lot of elves fighting orcs, elves discussing the plot, and elves in love interests with elves. I’m all for examining more of Tolkien’s favourite characters, but at the moment it looks like it could venture over the top. Evangeline Lily is a fairly talented actress. She was quite convincing as Kate in Lost. But having her in there as a token just seems like the movie is lowering its standards so the masses have something to jump in for. Some may say Arwen had a similar makeover for LOTR, moving up from her (I think) two lines in the book to having significant screen time. Even so, at least she was an original character, not just some idle flick of a film maker’s wand hoping to cast a female friendly aura over Tolkien’s work. An adaption shouldn’t have to dot hat. Take what’s there or go elsewhere.

The same applies for the evidence of a ridiculous amount of fight scenes. When this franchise stretched into three bits, I knew Peter Jackson was gonna have to invent a large amount of unscripted action just to keep us entertained. I was right. The whole thing seems to be full of orcs grappling with elves or dwarves escaping in arrow ridden barrels. Seriously, it takes from the plot to have it dumbed down to nothing more than a middle earth die hard.

The only extra that seems completely justifiable is the inclusion of the appendices reference to the necromancer. If Jackson wanted to help keep this tying up well to LOTR, he was right to throw this in. With like nine hours of film, why not? It happened and it’s a nice addition for real enthusiasts. Gandalf has delivered in all four films so far so having more of him may help move the whole thing along much smoother.

The section with the spiders looks like it could be well done, and the part at the lonely mountain seems worthwhile. I’ll be interested to see where they cut off and how Jackson delivers in his last installment. Until then, I’ll tell the purely fan side of me to shut up and enjoy the fact that a great story like this has come to light in such a way that a movie is there at all. An adaption can succeed in change if the change turns out good. In fact, without Jackson and all his little twitches of the tale, would I even be here at all as a massive fan?