The LOTR trilogy is the epitome of the grand epic fantasy adventure. The characters, the locations, the story and most importantly the journey all gelled to make for an amazing synergy rarely seen in one film let alone three. Lighting in a bottle, a perfect storm of events and circumstances or whatever you want to call it, those films individually and as a whole worked on every possible level. The sad fact of the matter is that no matter what Jackson and company did with The Hobbit movies they would never match the now legendary greatness that those films have achieved. Read the full review after the break.
Review Vital Stats:
Projector Type: 3D Digital HFR
Film Rating: PG-13
Film Runtime: 2 hr 24 min
Studio: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 17, 2014
Loves: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Likes: The other two Hobbit movies
Neutral: This whole splitting a single novel into multiple movies thing
Hates: That these movies will never be as recognized as the far superior LOTR trilogy
Time for Peter Jackson: To finally move on.
|Bilbo tries his hardest to be part of the movie still.|
But something happened along the way. Excitement and joy quickly turned to sour grapes as the same fans who championed Jackson's vision for the LOTR trilogy suddenly became his greatest adversaries. While many are quick to point towards the fact that the Hobbit films should have been one, maybe two films at most, and that stretching the single book into three overlong films was the beginning of the end for Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, with all three films released it has become clear that wasn't the only problem the films had to contend with.
|Thorin's gold lust gets old real quick.|
Even using many of the now iconic characters from the LOTR couldn't elevate the material into something it was never meant to be and actually had the reverse effect Jackson was going for. Somehow by including the likes of Gandalf, Legolas, Saruman, Galadriel and Elrond into these films it almost lessens their impact in the other films. Why? Well to be quite blunt, they just aren't all that interesting this time around. They don't have much to do beyond acting as fan service and most often they are more of a distraction from the main characters than they should be. Their inclusion here felt wholly unnecessary at the most and a blatant attempt to remind everyone the much better LOTR films at the least which is a whole other problem unto itself.
|Sadly nearly everything dealing with the LOTR characters feels cheap.|
A perfect example of how a main character can still be an integral part of the story without being always front and center or even as popular as the surrounding characters is to look at Luke Skywalker and the original Star Wars trilogy. He may not have always influenced the direction the story went, but we knew that by the end his character arc would be the defining one that shaped the future of the galaxy. Bilbo starts out down that road but in TBOTFA he may as well have been wearing the ring of power the entire time because he was barely visible beyond a couple key moments that even then amounted to nothing more than being a messenger or giving something important to someone else.
|Bard, wish we got to know you better than we did buddy.|
But TBOTFA is an oddity in comparison to those first two films as the beginning is basically wrapping up the main story/quest (that could have easily been included in TDOS without much effort) and the remaining couple of hours is devoted to one of the most elongated conclusions in film history. Strangely though even with that much extra time, which is devoted mostly to a series of surprisingly tame extended battle sequences, Jackson still couldn't find the time to tell us what the heck happened to the Arkenstone. We are talking about the sole object everyone in the film is in search of, it is the "ring" of this trilogy and yet the film ends with nary a mention of it.
|Why didn't Tauriel show up in the LOTR trilogy again?|
Instead of spending time with the Bilbo and the dwarves, essentially the only characters we had any sort of attachment to at all, we find ourselves split up following Gandalf's exploits which is basically just all set up for LOTR and the character Bard whom we were introduced to far too late to forge any sort of connection with. That structure worked in Return of the King because we knew and cared about all the characters we would bounce back and forth between, not so much here. In a trilogy of films that has already asked a lot of its audience, patience begins to wear thin when we are being asked to care about third tier characters like Thranduil and fourth tier characters like Alfrid, both of whom get much more screen time here than either deserves.
|This is Thranduil...ya know, in case you forgot.|
Where the true failure of the Hobbit film's lies is in the fact that over the course of three films we still don't really care much about any of these characters thus rendering their ultimate fates a moot point. There was a distinct lack of danger in the two previous films with many of the characters appearing cartoonish in their ability to survive even the most outrageous situations and that has translated into the audience feeling cheated in a weird way. While characters in the LOTR certainly had their fare share of improbable survival odds, The Hobbit often times makes it appear as though its characters are invulnerable to just about anything thrown at them, including a towering fire breathing dragon.
|Oh dwarves, why can I only recall half your names after 3 movies and over 9 hours spent with you?|
This is seen as a failure because Jackson tries to tug on our heartstrings in TBOTFA and it just doesn't work. Now yes, the fates of the characters in the film do match their paper bound counterpart, but that doesn't change the fact that when certain things happen to certain characters...it fails at instilling any real emotion because Jackson failed to earn the right to pull at those emotions. I want to feel something for these characters, I want to feel their loss, but the disconnect is too much and in place of shedding a tear there was a shrug of the shoulder. In comparison, Boromir's demise in Fellowship was much more impactful than anything in the Hobbit trilogy and that was a character we had one third the amount of time to get to know.
Enough of beating around the bush though, time to know how I felt about the film overall (which by this point you likely have already guessed). Is The Hobbit: TBOTFA a bad film? No, it is far from a bad film. A single flawed Hobbit film is worth fifty Michael Bay Transformers film, so don't take all this negativity as me hating the film, just more disappointed than anything else It just isn't as good as it should have been and is unfortunately the victim of being compared to not just the two much better films before it, but also the entirety of the LOTR trilogy as well. Not to label any of the Hobbit or LOTR films as worse than one another, but if you absolutely had to know where TBOTFA stands it would easily be bringing up the rear.
|Thorin's redemption is probably one of the only real successes of this third film.|
Even with the problems each film has inherent to them they are all still successful and even satisfying in their own ways (even TBOTFA). At the very least Peter Jackson has given us the best cinematic dragon to have ever be put on film and in case you think that is faint praise let me tell you, it isn't. Perhaps a few years down the road when they are free from all the hype and unrealistic expectations that were laid upon them we can finally see them for what they truly are, which are fantastically entertaining pieces of cinema that have managed to retain a sort of dignity despite how deeply flawed (and disliked) they are. The Hobbit may not have reached the same heights as the LOTR trilogy and may never be as recognized as those films are, but that doesn't stop them from delivering some of the best fantasy adventure entertainment out there.
The Hobbit: TBOTFA may not deliver the epic finale we were hoping for but that won't stop anyone who enjoyed the first two films from enjoying seeing the trilogy get wrapped up. The only thing that truly makes watching this final Hobbit film sad is coming to the realization that there won't be another one next year. And that isn't a thought that comes to someone who didn't enjoy what they saw, that is what someone thinks when they want more of a good thing which The Hobbit trilogy most certainly is.