In 2001, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings was released in theaters. I was a young college student in a semi-serious relationship, a best friend I saw on a near daily basis, and a core of friends I saw at least twice a week.
It is now 2014, and none of those things is true.
The Hobbit is about a journey and, in some larger sense, encapsulates a good part of my life. 13 years of my life, to be precise. Over the course of the last 3 years we've seen a Hobbit movie once per year. When they first started releasing I was, yet again, in another relationship. That relationship endured through the second film and then sputtered into nonexistence.
I don't mean to say the Hobbit sputters out. It doesn't, but it's distinctly changed from its film conceptions birthed over a decade ago. Of course, that should be the case. In many ways, the Lord of the Rings changed how fantasy films were done. The sort of battles we saw on the silver screen were unrivaled in scope and set standards that other films now had to aspire to. Even The Chronicles of Narnia felt compelled to stage every film's end with a mammoth battle. If you go back and look at The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, you can even see filming similarities from its last battle and The Return of the King. Narnia was supposed to be a fairytale!
Except that they don't and The Battle of Five Armies suffers not because of lack of talent, directing or writers, but because of artificial demands placed upon it by money figures and the ensuing demands of movie studios. Peter Jackson mines almost every minute detail from the background lore of the Silmarillion that he can to fill in the storyline and stretch this final movie into a third, final installment.
Let's be clear about the obvious: The camera work is still superb, the special effects are still superb, and the acting is still superb. Legolas is still Legolas, although slightly younger and a bit more rigid in his approach to life. Gandalf is still spectacularly Gandalf, in all his intelligent wizardry, cunning and strength of will. Finally, I can't say enough about Bilbo and the performance given by Martin Freeman, who mines such emotional depth out of the role that I could have been swayed into a fourth film that focused more on Biblbo and Hobbits.
And that's the rub. There just isn't the material to cover that, and so Peter Jackson is caught between
impossible demands. First, he has to honor the source material. Second, he has to create a 'blockbuster' that will sell spectacularly. Finally, he has to have a story to tell.
I put that final notion last because story was the greatest victim in this demand to stretch the films out. Bilbo's relationship to Thorin Oakenshield, leader of the Dwarves, reaches touching depth. Unfortunately it has little basis in the books and so it never quite balances establishing it while still remaining true to the books. Likewise, stories of love between Tauriel and Kili are great stories to plunder, except for their lack of existence in the source.
Impossible demands changed what The Hobbit was envisioned as by J.R.R. Tolkien: A children's adventure story. It could no longer be such a thing in the face of what The Lord of the Rings became: a fantasy epic.
But does that make it bad? Is the version of you from ten years ago bad in comparison to what you are now? Is it vice versa? The Hobbit was changed because of the journey taken to tell it. It is different. For better or worse is hard to tell.
I can only end this review by saying what I did at the film's end. I sat and enjoyed the touching final song, The Last Goodbye, as the credits scrolled by. I remained, as I have done for every one of these films, until the screen went black. And then I left, having enjoyed a good story, that at times reached for emotions it sometimes hit, and at other times did not. I left satisfied, a changed person, because I felt the story was worth the telling.
4 / 5 Stars.
|Kind of in love with Tauriel.|
|How I felt after the movie.|