Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Aiden Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry & I think that’s pretty much all the major players but there are loads more so I’m not going to write them all out.
This weekends sees the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The cinema I go to decided to show The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug prior to the new release to create an 8 hour triple bill of Middle Earthy goodness, meaning you get three reviews packed into one post! Aren’t you lucky?
Prior to this I had not seen any of the films as I only saw the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings last year (as a hint, I thought they were pretty good but I did have some strong dislikes and overall I found them to be overrated). So going into this marathon I wasn’t as excited as many of the other people in attendance, of which there were way more than I expected. It was a Thursday evening from 6pm – 230am so I didn’t think it would be convenient for most people but it was packed, so there we go. As such, parts of the films blur into each other.
An Unexpected Journey begins with Gandalf helping a company of Dwarves to take back their home; a mountain fort that is currently occupied by a terrible dragon called Smaug. Bilbo Baggins (who you may be familiar with thanks to the huge Leonard Nimoy hit ‘The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins‘) is recruited to be their burglar and they set off across Middle Earth to take back their home annnd, well, not much else happens in that one, except that there’s also a darkness entering the land in the form of a mysterious Necromancer. In The Desolation of Smaug there’s a detour to the Wood-Elf kingdom as the company make their way to the mountain, and then they go through Lake Town where the distinctively-accented Luke Evans is waiting for them (seriously, I love that dude’s voice, it’s amazing). Then it’s dragon time! The Battle of the Five Armies is about as self-explanatory as it gets.
I’d say I probably like these a little less than the original trilogy. The plus points of The Hobbit is that there’s barely any Frodo or Gollum, who are both characters that I don’t like at all. The last film only has one ending, unlike the 47 of Return of the King. I like the throughline of greed and corruption, and how it can eat away at the soul. It’s a good thematic connection with the original trilogy and it works well to provide a sense of foreboding once Bilbo gets his hands on the ring. It’s present in all three films and the future is reflected in Smaug and Thorin. There are hints about what’s to come with Sauron but I liked how it was in the background and how the ring was just something Bilbo picked up along the way.
The main story of the Dwarves getting back to their home though….eh. It’s not something that I felt hugely invested in. Part of the problem is that aside from a few Dwarves none of them felt developed as characters. Thorin was obviously the one that we had most invested in, but then there was Gimli’s dad, James Nesbitt, Zachary Quinto lookalike, Zachary Quinto lookalike’s brother, the old one, the angry one, and the rest. As a result the whole quest fell a bit flat, and this is most obvious in the first film. Nothing much of consequence happens and I feel the events of the film could be summed up in a short passage at the beginning of the second film and you wouldn’t miss out on much. The action set-pieces feel like they’re there to draw out proceedings rather than add anything to the story.
The second films beings with a bizarre prologue to the first film, where Gandalf meets Thorin. Very odd. The Dwarves continue their journey but this time they get into Elf territory and everyone’s favourite Elf (aside from Will Ferrell) appears! Legolas adds some presence and I enjoyed Lilly as Tauriel (the female presence in these films was severely lacking, would it have hurt them to turn a few of the Dwarves into women? Although given the lack of development it would have been a token gesture, but still, it’s better than nothing). The two of them are basically superheroes and pull off some incredibly cool attacks, although at times they do feel a bit too unbeatable.
Smaug is impressive and there aren’t enough good films about dragons. I liked how the fact that he talked was simply accepted and we didn’t have to have a whole backstory about how he was able to talk. I also loved the part where the gold starts moving and it gives a sense of just how massive he is. The effects are great and the fight between the dragon and the dwarves is a pretty awesome spectacle, I’m not going to lie, especially with the shimmering gold in the background. However, as much as I liked that the ending is complete rubbish. It’s the worst type of ending where it feels the film has been chopped off unnaturally, especially since it’s wrapped up quickly at the beginning of the following film, and in a telegraphed and predictable manner!
There was no need for that cliffhanger and it annoys me because it feels like manufactured tension. They could have easily resolved Smaug’s story in the film ABOUT SMAUG.
That leads to The Battle of the Five Armies and actually I really enjoyed this one. It’s basically one big battle and the fight scenes are really cool, I liked how the different factions interaction with each other and how the corruption played into the battle. The rivalries that had been built up paid off, but again Legolas has the best moments. The spectacle of the whole thing is impressive and I really did like the creepiness of the Necromancer.
So those are my impressions. I think they’re pretty good but I’m not completely enthused about them. While there are good moments in each of the films it’s only the third one I can say I really enjoyed. The other two are okay.