Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Major spoilers throughout!

And with this final installment of The Hobbit, it strikes me most interestingly how similar Peter Jackson's prequels-to-a-masterpiece are to George Lucas's. The only significant difference is that Jackson had a much bigger budget at his disposal. But I did manage to put aside the mental image of PJ rolling in his oodles of cash and giggling, and enjoyed this final Middle-Earth movie for what it was.

Sometimes it was beautiful.

And often, it was funny. I rolled my eyes with good humor at Bard riding that wagon down the hill, nearly killing his children in order to save them, and raised my eyebrows at the trolls that looked like grumpy old geezers. I definitely chuckled at the Catapult Trolls, and the one who had chains for eyes was amusing...ly disturbing.

Legolas, Captain of the Obvious and Ridiculous (Orlando Bloom) gets to one-up his Lord of the Rings era antics several times, like when he rides a giant bat in a scene straight out of Peter Jackson's King Kong. (He figured we'd all slept through that moment or forgotten it by now, but I remember!) "These bats were bred for a single purpose: so I can be awesome at no creative expense of the director!" But that was nothing compared to his fight with Bolg and how hard I laughed when Legsie lightly springs off stones as they fall, jumping to safety, and ignoring those pesky laws of physics.

"What are we doing here, Legolas?" "I'm not sure... making sure this movie really, really long, I guess." "Cool." "Let's be dramatic for a second and then head back to the action."

But at least Captain Obvious wasn't annoying. I spent the whole movie tolerating the scenes that Alfrid hijacks on the confidence that he would get his just deserts before then end. And does he? No -- so why again was he taking up all my beloved characters' screen time?
 
Additions were mostly laughable, but when it came to changes, indifference was the best I could manage. Two changes are worth mentioning because of the importance I put on them: Firstly, the deaths of Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his nephews. I was neutral for the most part on Kili (Aidan Turner) and Tauriel's (Evangeline Lilly) romance, because while I thought it was a little silly I knew it couldn't come to anything, and figured it could do no harm. I was proved wrong when Kili's developmental focus was shifted from loyalty for his uncle to infatuation with an elf lady. In the end he died for her, not for Thorin, like he and Fili (Dean O'Gorman) nobly do in the book. Here Fili gets an even worse fate, as he hardly get any development at all, and then is killed as a taunt to spur the other two doomed dwarves on. Still, while I don't approve of the context, Fili and Kili's deaths were certainly affecting -- Fili's perhaps the most, so that's good for him -- and forgetting anything that had to do with ice, Thorin's death was good, and in fact quite moving as he makes his peace with Bilbo.

Why Tolkien, why?

And secondly, the death of The Dragon. (The Magnificent Benedict Cumberbatch) As you know, I had high hopes for this scene. It is my absolute favorite part of the book -- Bard, a regular man, takes his last arrow, a regular arrow, and with knowledge of the dragon's weakness fires that regular arrow from his regular, trusty bow, and it finds its mark and sinks in, "barb, shaft, and feather." And the Great and Terrible Smaug is brought down by such a little thing because of his carelessness, vanity, and pride. PJ's version becomes overly complicated for no clear reason, and all but destroys the power of the moment. Still, after the arrow sinks in (not all the way, I noticed with disappointment) the rest of the scene was exactly as it should have been, and therefore great.

I did like that they gave Smaug some more dialogue. He can have all the dialogue he wants!

In the realm of characters, the most compelling was the King Under the Mountain himself Thorin. The madness of King Thorin was a thing to behold, and handled well from all aspects. Richard Armitage really was, and proved himself to be a great choice for the king, from his distinctive voice to his expressive eyes and perfect nose, to his remarkable ability to be so convincingly violent, and then equally convincingly kind and affectionate.

On a totally different note, I suddenly feel a need to watch North and South...

Next, our hero Bilbo Baggins. And I will only ever have praise for Martin Freeman's iconic performance as the iconic Hobbit, but this film doesn't give him as much to do as the previous two. Still, obviously, what he does do never fails to add continuous sparks of life to a film that often borders on boring from being so drawn out. I loved his dilemma over the Arkenstone, and how all that played out so similarly to the book. The conflict between him and Thorin was probably the best thing about this movie, from the very beginning through Thorin's death scene, their relationship was nothing but quality.

The scene of Thorin gifting the Mithril mail to Bilbo was just perfect.

And then there's Bard, (Luke Evans) my favorite side character, and after he kills Smaug his role is only just beginning. Even though in the book he was in a position of power from the first, this Bard's transition from Bard the Bargeman, to Bard the Bowman, to Bard the Leader, and a man who can hold his own while counseling with a wizard and an elf king is as natural and believable as anything, because that's simply who the character is. He did rather disappear into the confusion of the climax though, which was too bad, and the plot line about he and the Lake Town people getting their money was left hanging.

Bard the Negotiator.

And speaking of elf kings -- Lee Pace. Thranduil's character development had some interesting drama in it. His final approval of Tauriel and Kili's romance was a bit too much and a bit too silly, but otherwise his conflict with Tauriel was interesting, and with Legolas even more so. He has such a striking appearance and cool, majestic presence; so that when he becomes confused or doubts himself it's done so subtly, yet is somehow jarring to see. He is also the first and only elf to really impress on me the weight of the immortality of the elves -- he makes it believable and a important part of him.

He's also the most fabulous elf-king in all of Middle-Earth!

All the dwarves besides Kili and Thorin are basically left alone for this movie, and as always, I wish some of the pointless action sequences had been traded in for more character for those on the sidelines. Fili and Balin (Ken Scott) get their tiny bit, and Dwalin (Graham McTavish) gets his second to show of fighting skills, but my favorite, Bofur (James Nesbitt), who actually had a part in the last movie is forgotten, along with Bifur (William Kircher), Bombur (Stephen Hunter), Dori (Mark Hadlow), Nori (Jed Brophy), Ori (Adam Brown), Oin (John Callen), and Gloin (Peter Hambleton).

And Bofur if that guy who hides behind someone's head in the group picture...

The dwarf king Dain Ironfoot (Billy Connolly) was a short but fun addition to the dwarf ranks though. I loved how Scottish he was, and how his beard looked like tusks. His ride -- well, I won't go there. Late-to-the-party Beorn was a sight for sore eyes, but his appearance was turned mostly to an excuse to see him turn into a bear whilst falling from the sky, which was quite a sight I admit, but seconds after he lands, we never see him again. As for Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the members of the White Council, and their adventures; Sauron was cool, because his name is Cumberbatch, as were the Nine, but overall nothing happened, and that plot line was useless.

Interestingly, I actually started liking Azog (Manu Bennett) in this one. Perhaps because this is where he finally fits in and has a part to play.

On the technical side it is definitely worth commending the CGI quality which was disappointing in An Unexpected Journey, but wasn't noticeably bad here, and therefore must have been good. Or maybe I got used to it. The cinematography was occasionally nice to look at, (like in the scene of parley between Thorin and Bard, which was great and a great scene besides) but more often, it looked tired, which makes sense. The directing and writing was tired as well -- there was a lot that was a bit too familiar. In the score's case though, the familiarity was a pleasant quality. I still love the Bard and the Lake Town themes, and enjoyed the variations on those, and a few others. And then of course there was Billy Boyd's song played in the credits, and it was fitting and lovely.

And so, I bid The Hobbit a very fond farewell. And I was fond of these new films -- mainly the wonderful, endearing, magnificent characters that populated them -- but the fondness of this goodbye is more out of my sentiment than a reluctance to see them leave.

Roads go ever ever on
  Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
  By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
  And through the merry flowers of June
Over grass and over stone,
  And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
 Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
  Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
  And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
  And trees and hills they long have known.

12 comments:

  1. AArgh!! I so want to go watch this movie but I got exams :O
    Laws of Physics are for us mortals not for Legolas have you seen his stunts in LOTR they're even funnier? :P XD (but Orlando Bloom is brilliant as legolas in all the movies)
    Martin Freeman rocks! and I think Ian McKellen might be Gandalf in real life as well :P
    Smaug's death was rather disappointing in book I think because he just dies in it..I think I'd like a little complications like they've done in the movie.
    Tauriel's love story was added for no reason as if there was less stuff going on...I wish they hadn't added that in the movies it totally ruins the campaign of Thorin.
    Wow 3.5 stars :D

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    1. Aw, sorry! Hopefully you'll get to see it soon (maybe you have by now!)

      That's true. If anyone can get away with it, it's Legolas. His stunts in LotR are pretty crazy too, but I actually think these ones topped them!

      Well, I hope you like they way they make that scene in the movie then, but I must say the reason I liked that part of the book so much was because of how simple it was. :)

      I agree it just distracts from the main plot, which is better and more interesting anyway!

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  2. So I went to read this and immediately saw Major spoilers throughout!, went ahhh and decided to leave this comment saying I'll be back when I've seen it. :D

    xx

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    1. Haha, that's probably a good idea... I'll look forward to it, and to your review! :D

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    2. Took me a while, but I'm back. ;) The only thing that really bugged me about BOFA was how much screen time Alfrid has. After watching it all together my family was talking about it and we were all rather annoyed with Alfrid, but then my mom said something about him being there to sort of showcase Bard's character, which makes sense, so I'm not so annoyed with him anymore, just wish he didn't have so much screen time.
      I never thought about the arrow being just a normal arrow before, or that scene from the book the way you described it. Thanks for putting that in, I like that. :) The picture of powerful Smaug being shot down because of his vanity with one simple arrow is brilliant. I liked Smaug's death scene, it was probably one of my favorite scenes - I liked how simple it was (after he's been shot and he just falls back) and the imagery. And I liked that he got some more good dialog, as you said, he can have all the dialogue he wants. ;)
      My favorite part of the Hobbit trilogy is the characters, so I agree with you about wishing some of the fighting scenes could have been used for more character development. Martin Freeman really was perfect as Bilbo, he just embodied him so well, and the expressions and everything. :)
      I can't remember how much the plot line of Gandalf and the Necromancer ties in with LOTR, but however much it did I loved Gandalf, Saruman, Elrond and the White Lady all working together - it was such a cool setup of characters and relationships.
      Bard is definitely one of my favorite characters from the Hobbit movies - he and Gandalf and Bilbo - so I was glad he got such a large role in this last. I think overall this was my favorite of the three, but as they go together so closely that doesn't really matter.
      Oh, the other thing that bugged me was when Thorin and Azog are fighting and Azog gets 'stuck' under the ice....
      I love the Last Goodbye, those lyrics are so beautiful.

      It was fun reading your review. :)

      xx

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    3. Yeah, it is nice how Alfrid's horrible character is a contrast for Bard, but yes, he could have done that just as well with half as much screen time! Bleh.

      Yeah, that scene in the book is a has always been my favorite because of it's simplistic beauty, and the David and Goliath sense it gives. The scene in the movie is good granted, and I can see how if it were translated exactly it might have just been boring, but I'll still always love the book's version of it more. And yeah, after he is shot it is beautiful.

      They set up the potential for lots of character development for all the dwarves, but it never really panned out, (except with Thorin) and that was too bad, especially with how shallow the book characters are we can't even fill in the gaps with that. :P Martin Freeman is just the best though, isn't he?

      I'm glad you liked the White Council bits. It's not that I really disliked it all or anything, but all the characters there were already satisfactorily developed in LotR, so I just felt like they were cheating development and screen time out of the other characters who wouldn't get another chance to be developed.

      Me too -- Bard Bilbo and Thorin for me. :) And me too, that made me very happy. That's true -- I can't wait for this one to be released on DVD so I can watch them all one after the other!

      When he's pretending to be dead and Thorin decides to go stand directly above him? Yeah, that was too much.

      OH, I know. It's so perfect.

      Thanks Sarah! :)

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  3. Actually, I would say that there is a huge difference between the Star Wars prequels and the Hobbit trilogy. A lot of it is the talent behind the Hobbit. The Hobbit has great writing, acting, and direction. Anyway.....

    Alfird’s abundance of screentime was my only real issue with the film. His scenes could have been saved for the Extended Edition. Otherwise I was impressed. But then again, I don’t have any preexisting negativity against the film for changing the source material. Having not read the book definitely gave me a different experience than others because I am able to see it as a film first, not an adaptation. However, I know how it feels to have source material changed.

    -James

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    1. Oh yeah... I guess you're right. I wrote that it a fit of annoyance at PJ for putting so much less effort into these movies than LOTR, but I do agree, there's much more talent here. Except I wouldn't say the writing is "great," but it is better than the SW prequels!

      Honestly man, that might be true -- I might, as a fan of Middle-Earth, be biased against these movies. I tried to imagine a world where I'd never read The Hobbit, or LOTR, or seen the LOTR trilogy (only in that world would I be totally unbiased) and it's impossible. The LOTR trilogy shaped my opinions on what makes a good movie. Without it, I might be a raving fan of the Transformer franchise! Or not care about movies at all.

      I thought seriously about it though, and if I separate myself from everything Tolkien and look at this movie completely objectively, I come back with the same answer every time, still agreeing with my review. With this movie especially, I think I WAS able to enjoy it as objectively as possible. I went in expecting changes and determined to enjoy it as best as I could anyway, no matter what. You may see that as preexisting negativity, (expecting changes I'd likely not like) but the more I think about it, the more I realize that it's the opposite. Because I love Tolkien's world and books, and PJ's film adaptations, then of course I want to love these too! That's why a fangirled over casting decisions and trailers, and went to see the films as early as I could -- in the hope of seeing something else in that world I could fall in love with. I cared so much and I wanted to love them so bad, but I can't change my opinions on what a good movie is. And yes, in my disappointment I harp a lot on the things this film let me down on, and maybe after another viewing or two I'll be over it, and will be able to talk about what I loved and ignore the rest, and maybe if I re-wrote this review in a year it would sound very different. But the rating would be the same. It was objective. And, it was positive. 3.5 out of 5 isn't bad -- I really, truly did like, and enjoy this movie. There were some problems -- changes and silly additions I didn't like, (and imagine I still wouldn't like if I were ignorant of their being changes and additions, too) but there were also plenty of changes and additions I liked! For example, I like that they made Bard start out a bargeman instead of leader of the Lake-Town archers, because it gave his character room to develop, from lowly bargeman to leader. Also, I didn't mind the addition of Legolas, or Tauriel, until her existence detracted from Kili's development and relationship with Thorin which I found more interesting.

      All that to say, I think if I have a preexisting tendency to anything, it's to try and love these movies, but sadly I can't love a movie unconditionally just because I want to.

      Sorry for going off on a tangent on you, but what you said really made me think. So thanks for that, and thanks for your understanding, and thanks for commenting! :)

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    2. *MASSIVE SPOILERS*

      Sorry if I sounded too accusatory. I just meant that with any adaptation that differs from the source material the viewer is more likely to dislike it since it is different than how the viewer pictures the source material. I have had the same problem with several different films. However, there also plenty of movies that drastically different from the source material, but I liked the direction they went. For example, the Avengers film is better than just about any Avengers comic that I have ever read even though it was drastically different.

      As for the Hobbit 3, in my opinion it is a high quality film. It had characters that I genuinely cared about, heart wrenching deaths, and stunning direction and cinematography. It had a few minor issues like Alfrid's overuse and the conclusion could have been slightly longer, but as whole it met my definition of a great film.

      Also, to me, if a movie can truly surprise me, that is saying something. Of course you read the book so you knew who was going to die, so there was no suspense or shock for you. I entirely expected that Thorin and Kili would survive, therefore their deaths added to the success of the film. It is the same way for me with Bucky's "death" in the first Captain America. I knew he wasn't dead, therefore it was not all that important of a scene, and the same goes for Loki being turning into a villain. I still enjoyed both of those films, but I was not surprised by what happened.

      Anyway, what I am trying to say is that the movie was an excellent film that did a lot of things right throughout. Of course, everyone has an opinion and mine is in the minority. It had those few minor problems with the funny looking trolls and those other small things. However, I still haven't seen anyone note a flaw in the film that I see as anything more than a minor issue. Regardless, everyone has a different opinion and I respect your opinion of the film.

      One last thing. I don't know how this film differs from the last Harry Potter film. *Harry Potter SPOILERS* Everyone loved HP8, but it had the same structure, just with less suspense and less character development since everyone knows Harry and friends can't die.

      btw, sorry for any spelling mistakes.

      -James


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    3. Major Spoilers!

      That's alright; I do understand what you mean. I find at the same time though, if you're already invested in a story you can be quicker to forgive differences for the sake being able to love the story in all its forms. I do have a tendency to put unrealistic expectations on film adaptations of stories I love -- however, usually, no matter how many of my favorite parts were adapted in a way I didn't like, I can appreciate the film quality separately, as in this case. And in this case, I actually liked some changes when I'd usually only tolerate them. There weren't many changes because of how short the book was, but there were a lot of additions. Some of them were good, most were not.

      This is where I disagree about the quality of the film. I'd still say it's a high quality film, but obviously not as high as you say. I agree about everything that was good, but I put after that a much bigger "but." I really didn't like all the silly, physically impossible things -- Bard riding the wagon down the hill, Legolas jumping off falling bricks, and riding giant bats -- plus the giant bats themselves didn't make sense, or the giant worms that ate tunnels for the goblins. These things I still wouldn't like if I hadn't read the book. Remember the rock giant battle in AUJ? That was in the book, and I wish they had left it out because it was silly too. I know those kinds of things were insignificant to you but they did bother me, and added together degraded the film.

      Actually, I was surprised at the amount of shock and suspense I felt around the time of the deaths. It was different for us obviously, but for me, knowing they were supposed to die, and feeling it coming with dread, halfway wishing they wouldn't even if it did mean a huge change from the book, is one of my most vividly memorable experiences in a theater. And I didn't know when or how it would happen. I didn't know about Bucky not actually dying, but that scene was nothing compared to these.

      Fili's death was shocking, but it was also a throwaway death and in the book it was a heroic one. Kili's was heroic, but I liked it least because the Tauriel/Kili stuff was just plain not compelling anymore, and they were trying to force it. Thorin's was great besides one thing -- Azog floating under the ice was too much and made Thorin seem like an idiot for just standing there watching. They sacrificed part of Thorin's character for the "cool" effect.

      I don't think there is one huge flaw, and why would there be if the film is based on a book whose plot and themes have withstood the test of time? Since you see the flaws as minor, I think you're right about the movie for yourself; you're not missing anything. Most of them like Alfrid and the trolls and other silly things are just silly, (and I thought annoying) but it's the time they take away from the rest of the movie that makes an even bigger problem for me. Character development was left hanging, and that afterthought rushed ending for Bilbo. I also thought the film was too long for the little amount of content in it, and this one's format and focus suffered for being split three ways. Like Smaug's death, being tacked on so anti-climatically to the beginning. I agree they did a lot of things right, and some of it was fantastic, but I also saw a lot of things wrong, and not all of it was minor to me.

      Thanks for taking the time to respond James. I respect your opinion as well, and I think I understand better where you're coming from now, and I hope this helps you understand me. It's impossible for us to know exactly what it's like to see this movie, having read the book, (in your case) or not having read it (in mine), but certainly neither is the wrong way. :)

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  4. Haha! I loved that, "those pesky laws of physics." That was my family's and my reaction, too!;)

    Ahh, great review! I agree, the acting was all pretty terrific...is it just me, or did anyone else get, surprisingly, a little teary-eyed in the Smaug-death scene, when Bard is firing the arrow and he tells his little boy, "No, son--you look at me"? Ahem.

    Again, great review!:)

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    1. Hehe, thank you Arwen! Fortunately, Legolas doesn't let pesky things bother him easily. :P

      That part was good. Because I was kinda disappointed at that point that my prediction didn't turn out, the emotions of that scene didn't get to me as much as they could have. I need to see it again now that I'm resigned to the manner of Smaug's death, cause Bard and his son are just great!

      Thanks a bunch! :)

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