Monday, December 22, 2014

Theatrical Review: The Hobbit- There and Back Again

Date: December 29, 2013

Time: 11:15am
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Party: 3 (my mom and aunt)
Duration: 144 minutes (+3 trailers)

Director: Peter Jackson

Trailers and other Opening Remarks

We were among a dozen or so people in the theater. Most in clusters of two or three, same as we were.

The three trailers were as follows:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Jurassic World
Fast & Furious 7

All were the latest in a franchise. Two of which we already saw...
As cool as it is to see parts of "Star Wars" and "Jurassic Park" on the big screen again, it just wasn't as jaw-dropping or exciting as it could have been. And I tend to live for movie trailers.
"Fast and Furious" gave me a few laughs, but I know I'm never going to see it. Hadn't seen a single part of that franchise. At the forefront of my mind the whole time was the fact Paul Walker died making this movie so it's kind of a big deal.

Beginning [Discussion] of the End

We've finally come to the end of an era. The end of the franchise developed in New Zealand by Peter Jackson since the beginning of the 21st century.

[For my thoughts on the previous two installments, follow the links below]

Having never read the books, I didn't know what to expect as far as an ending for this movie. I knew some loose ends would be tied up. I knew there'd be casualties.

And in case anyone is wondering, I posted the "original" title of this movie in the heading out of principle. I realize it was going to be one huge battle scene taking up most of this movie, but did we really need to change the subheading to "Battle of the Five Armies?"

1. Dwaves
2. Elves
3. Men
4. Orcs
5. ?????

I'm still figuring out who the 5th army is [unless of course it's the 2nd horde of orcs, in which case you're just being redundant to screw with us]

Once again, I'll be writing this entry assuming the readers are fans of Middle Earth and know what's going on... some SPOILERS ahead, though

Where we last left off...

Gandalf has been trapped by the Necromancer (i.e. the previous incarnation of Sauron, the evil presence that rules Mordor in the "Lord of the Rings" series).
The dwarves arrived at their treasure horde. Our Hobbit friend, Bilbo Baggins, tried to reason with the dragon Smaug long enough to take back the fabled "Arkenstone" for King Thorin Oakenshield.
But the "Desolation of Smaug" ended with the bloody dragon escaping... maybe the worst cliff-hanger seen in movies since "The Empire Strikes" back.

Now that we're up to speed...

So I find it equally, if not more frustrating, that Smaug is taken out TEN MINUTES into the movie...
Peter Jackson could have ended the previous installment with his death and Laketown being consumed in flames. Absolutely ridiculous we had to wait a year for this to resolve.

Yeah, I realize that if we moved the "dispatching" of Smaug to the previous film, the final movie would be even shorter.
"There and Back Again" is only 144 minutes, probably the shortest of ANY Tolkien film adaptation. On the one hand, it's a relief we won't experience the lengthy "ending a million times" epilogue of the final "Lord of the Rings" film. On the other, I can't help but wonder if some editing could have been done so this trilogy wasn't so... uneven.

The Battles- Part 1- External and Internal conflict

Word spreads quickly that Smaug has been destroyed and the treasure horde in the mountain is ripe for the taking.
The Elven leader is interested in some white jewels.
The men are greedy, but also seeking funds to rebuild their lives after Smaug burned down their home.
The Orcs want to go to battle for world domination, obviously.

Meanwhile, Thorin Oakshield has gone mad with power and desperate to find the Arkenstone. When we finally get around to meeting with our Hobbit friend, we learn he's holding onto it. His concern being that returning the stone would result in endless madness.

One battle, not likely to get a lot of press but steps up the next series, takes place in the mountains where Gandalf is being held. Cate Banchett's Galadriel arrives first, but is unable to stave off the dark forces alone. The ruler of Rivendell, Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and wizard Saruman come moments later to lend a hand.
Eventually it is Galadriel that banishes the Necromancer to the "Far East" region of Middle Earth... otherwise known as Mordor.
But I must say... when Hugo Weaving came out all clad in battle armor, I cheered. I mean, I know that he participated in the "great war" we see in the "Fellowship" exposition, but seeing a familiar face from the other series and seeing him being a bad-ass... I found that exciting!

Too bad there are so many other battles... some on a greater scale... that could potentially lead to this all-star moment being forgotten about.

Minus the first ten minutes with Smaug, this movie could be split in two halves with somewhat of an epilog.
The defining factor of these two halves being Thorin Oakenshield. The first half has him barricading himself and his followers in the mountain.

Bilbo, however small, makes the biggest difference. He escapes the mountain and hands over the Arkenstone to Gandalf and the head elf. When Thorin Oakenshield finds out, he turns against him, a moment that allows his brethren to fully grasp his madness.
Finally, he discovers the error in his ways and resumes being the character he was in the previous two films.
A big moment of relief. I was so afraid he'd gone dark side and doing so would destroy him.

Then we also have the so-called "love triangle" storyline. Tauriel (Evangelline Lily) loves the dwarf Killi (Aidan Turner), but she convinces him to return to the other dwaves. Meanwhile, Legolas (in love with Tauriel) watches this elapse, torn, but says nothing.
What this ultimately leads to is Tauriel's banishment from the Elf kingdom and Legolas betraying his father by accompanying her.

Man, between this and the ending of the "Pirates of the Carribean" series, Orlando Bloom's in-film love life SUCKS.

The four way (Thorin's cousin, who comes in ridding a pot-belly pig, and his army arrive some time after the elves and men) battle transpires in the typical Peter Jackson fashion.

The Battles- Part 2- Individual Melee

Massive battle scene are impressive with all their CGI and such, but once Thorin Oakenshield, Legolas and Tauriel entered the battle and the focus shifts from millions to one-on-one combat, I was really enjoying myself.

Of course I'm thinking the whole time about the number of casualties sure to take place.
[Spoiler Alert]
Only three of the 13 dwarves were killed... Killi, his brother, and [begrudgingly] Thorin Oakenshield.
Based on Gimli's reaction in "Fellowship" when they see all the dwarf corpses in a cavern, I thought we'd be losing ALL of them. Instead, Tauriel loses her love interest and we lose the one dwarf everyone remembered the name of... the leader himself. I don't know what pissed me off more... the fact that he died or the fact his death COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.

Much of this battle is between him and this orc with a jagged sword for a hand. The climax takes place over ice, so I already see where the Orc will end up. But Thorin just stood there watching him float away while I'm thinking "get on dry land, you idiot!" Because the Orc isn't quite dead, you see.
I'm sure a lot of people would say "it's only right for the leader of the Dwarves and the leader of the Orcs to take each other out to bring an end to the battle"... again, I maintain, his death COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.
I mean, those freaking eagles showed up to aim in the final moments of the big battle. Surely one of them could have taken a detour to attack the Orc that killed him.

I had my worries about Tauriel. Especially in one scene where it'd be either her or Killi losing to another Orc. The only thing she suffered was a broken heart, unfortunately. They never explained what happened with her character, so I only assume she faded away into a solitary existence. (She was created specifically for this series to have a strong female presence, but I hope Peter Jackson thought of something of an ending for her).

Once again, Legolas showed why he's probably the best duelist in all of Middle Earth. He took refuge on a tower to take out members of the 2nd Orc army who were coming onto the ice to battle Thorin's dwarves with his kick-ass archery skills.
Then he manages to do something Hawkeye couldn't-- maintain his bad-ass fighting skills after running out of arrows.

[They literally made an SNL sketch out of this joke. Jeremy Renner playing his "Avengers" character and proving to be absolutely useless without his arrows]

Legolas had all kinds of tools at his disposal and never missed a beat. Although there was a moment where he was climbing up disintegrating steps in slow motion that had me c'mon'ing on... like I was screaming "oh, come on!" at the screen... it was like watching a freaking video game. But then, we ARE talking about Legolas here. The same elf that take out 100's of orcs singlehandedly in Helm's Deep during the "Two Towers"... but his awesomeness is undeniable.

Once his battle is done, his father suggests he pay a visit to Stryder, a future king and the "son of Arathorn"...
and this whole time, I thought that Slayer of Smaug, Bard (Luke Evans) was Aragon's distant ancestor.

Apparently we're only 20 or so years ahead of where "Fellowship" begins... taking into account the aging of Bilbo and Legolas are, I thought the gap would be larger. But then, much of Bilbo's aging could be accounted for by a little something known as "The Ring of Power."

Bilbo comes through in a lot of crucial moments, the last one being his trek to Thorin Oakenshield to warn him and his comrades about a 2nd army... it's during that last part where we finally see "the ring" being put to use.

Naturally, by the end of it all, Gandalf knows exactly what was going on. He knew Bilbo had this "one ring"... I mean, he's a wizard, he knows pretty much everything.
He claims the ring fell out of his pocket, but we all know he still has it.

While I like how Bilbo was a more active protagonist than Frodo, there's one thing I don't quite get.
How was Frodo so overwhelmed by the ring over those three movies yet Bilbo's dissension into madness didn't start appearing until the final moments of this movie? 
For me, I feel like there's a bit of disconnect.

A break for Comic Relief

There was a running gag with one of the men from Laketown. He's a bit of a weasel, Alfrid. We cut to him multiple times causing some sort of ruckus. He even disguises himself as a woman to steal gold and to avoid going to war. The only missing for me was someone squashing him because he really deserved it.

Final Comments

I'll continue the tradition in place and give this final film of the "Hobbit" trilogy:

It might even be the best of the series. Certainly better than "Desolation of Smaug".
I hadn't seen the original movie in its entirety since two years ago when we went to the theater, so I don't remember too much about it.
From an aesthetic point of view, just because there were more connections to the original series, I think I'd still prefer "There and Back Again."

Rumors are abound that an extended edition will come with the Blu-ray/DVD release, which is sure to be interesting.

And now that everything has come to an end, I'm now contemplating at least reading "The Hobbit." I've said before that I haven't had to read a single Tolkien book and still understand the movies perfectly, but perhaps reading the source material will help fill in some of the blanks in my head.

And perhaps if time allows, I might revisit the "Lord of the Rings" film series again and do a series of entries on those.
...Harry Potter is still king, though, in my eyes

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