Friday, December 19, 2014
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
I saw this the other day, and rather than write my review right away, I decided to sit on it and see how I felt about it later. I liked it when I walked out, and I still like it today. I thought it was a big step up from the deeply flawed "The Desolation of Smaug". But was it perfect? Well, no. But that's what a review is for.
This movie still felt very bloated, because it was. But that bloat felt more justified than the last one. While there was still way too much, it didn't annoy me this time. It felt that the story itself was much tighter than the previous installment.
I don't like the love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel, and Kili, and I never will. I have no problem with Tauriel in and of herself. I think Evangeline Lilly does a great job playing her, so much so that when Kili died and Tauriel grieved over him, admitted that she loved him... I felt for her. And this was over a subplot that I hated, and I still felt for her. I'd still have much happier without the love triangle, but damn... well done, Ms. Lilly. That's the mark of a great actor. Well done.
The return of nuclear Galadriel kind of annoyed me, but I never liked that sequence in "Fellowship of the Ring". It was glaring, and it came out of no where. But, when I look at this and I think that future generations will be watching this in chronological order, suddenly that initial scene has more of a foundation, which benefits it. I'd still rather have not had either, but aside from Galadriel turning blue again, I liked the scene.
Finally, I thought the opening scene where Bard slayed Smaug was a great ending for "The Desolation of Smaug", but a poor opening for "The Battle of Five Armies". I think that scene should have been at the end of the previous installment. Hell, I'll go as far as to say that if Smaug perished at the end of the last movie, more people would have walked out of that movie satisfied. But I'm glad we got the scene, I used to joke that we'd have to wait til the Extended Edition of "Battle", to which I was told to shut up and not joke about that. But yes, moving that sequence to the beginning of this movie is a choice that I don't understand.
What did I like? Just about everything else.
The sequence at Dol Guldur where the White Council rescued Gandalf and faced Sauron and the Nine was something I've wanted to see when I read "The Quest For Erebor" in the appendices of "The Lord of the Rings" oh so many years ago. These beings on a higher plain dueling. I loved Sauron's design, and how powerful he was despite being unable to take on physical form. One more reason why I loved it? Because finally, finally, there's a response to the question "why not take the eagles to Mordor with the Ring?" Sauron would have spotted them and easily, EASILY, taken it back. The quest or Mount Doom had to be stealth. Also, Galadriel addressed Sauron as "Servant of Morgoth". That made me happy.
Thorin's descent was a little bit over the top, but melodrama has always been a part of these movies, and Richard Armitage sold it. His Thorin was perfect. This was the character I've known since I was five. His death scene and final words with Bilbo were perfect, as was his rage when he learned that Bilbo gave Bard the Arkenstone. This is a classic story of a fall and redemption. I also enjoyed his final battle with Azog the Defiler.
Martin Freeman's Bilbo shined more, this was as much his story as Thorin's. I was excited when I heard Freeman was cast, and my excitement was rewarded. Especially at the end when asked who Thorin Oakenshield was to him, and all he had to say was "he was my friend." Yeah. Powerful words, a powerful performance.
There was so much in here that I enjoyed. Yes, the battle itself went on for maybe too long, but I enjoyed watching it. I enjoyed the politics of it all, I... well, I suppose I should go on about my overall feelings for these movies even though they are mostly over (not until the Extended Edition comes out!). Are these as good as "The Lord of the Rings" movies? Not even close. Are they comparable to the "Star Wars" prequels, again, not even close! They are much, much, much better than the prequels. These are good, fun movies whose biggest crimes are being no where near as good as their predecessors, and being way too bloated. But, you know what, "The Hobbit" as a book is also no where near as good as "The Lord of the Rings" as a book. Hell, when Tolkien wrote "The Hobbit", it wasn't even linked to the mythology he was creating. He didn't know until he had written the sequel. Would things have been different if "The Hobbit" was made first? Probably. Should it have been three movies? Probably not. But, in spite of all I wrote above about it being bloated, I still can't wait for the Extended Edition, because Middle Earth, both in the books and on screen is a place I love to spend my time in. The more time the better.
Thank you, Peter Jackson. Thank you for one more trip into Middle Earth. I suppose I'll have to come visit New Zealand for more.