James Halcomb reviews this season’s biggest movie and the films that started it all.
Somewhere between the amazing the release of “Iron Man” and I am going to guess around the release of “Thor: The Dark World” as a culture, we nerds became very spoiled, with overly-high expectations and automatic disillusionment. The “Hobbit” film trilogy has been a prime example in the making. What should have been a rallying cry for the “true” nerd nation has been met with some good box office returns but not a lot of excitement and a general malaise.
A lot of the problem with these films can be attributed to the need to the fact that a very slender book has been expanded, with extraneous and even wholly original content, to three films. I will give the “haters” credit in that the films do feel bloated, particularly the first film “An Unexpected Journey.” While the 25 minute plus dinner scene could have used some trimming and probably best left for the spectacular Special Editions that director Peter Jackson supervises for DV/Blu-ray, I thought it was great.
The second film, “The Desolation of Smaug” is a pretty exciting piece with some spectacular special effect work, but severely suffers from an needlessly abrupt ending, that doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger, but as if someone forgot to send the final reel of the film to the projectionist. This not so much thread, but final reel of the film is picked up in Laketown and the exciting final take down of the dragon by Bard (Luke Evans). While amazing, I do feel that this conclusion would have been better served by being in the previous film and this one opening with the aftermath of Smaug’s destructive power, it leaves you feeling that Smaug was more than a little short-changed after two films worth of build-up. However, it is still pretty exciting stuff and Cumberbatch gives us some great villainy as the voice of Smaug.
Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the rest of his dwarf company are becoming increasingly isolated from the outside after winning their ancestral home, and Thorin increasingly mad with desire for gold. This is all setup for an hour plus spectacle known as “The Battle of the Five Armies”. This battle is long and your desire to see the twists and turns of a CGI battle involving five fantasy character filled armies will give you an idea of how much you will enjoy the rest of the film. I for one thought it was incredible.
Just as much as Smaug’s story feels lost, the titular character, the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, played with great heart and zeal by Martin Freeman, feels like he is a bit lost and has very little screen time for a character whose name is in the title of the film. Understandably though, this film is about the battle and setting the stage for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy that chronologically follows. As such, I think the film succeeds on a grand scale.
Being critical of a film like this one is not very fair, the story is meant to be seen as a complete, singular story told and shown over several hours. While it has its problems standing on its own merits, I think the Hobbit films have been equal to the task as an expansion of the world created in the “Lord of the Rings” films and as an introductory course in the world Middle Earth.
I give the individual film of 3 three stars and the trilogy as a whole 3 ½ stars.