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For Your Consideration: 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies'

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, directed by Peter Jackson
When my childhood friends and I saw the Lord of the Rings movies, the epic trilogy directed by Peter Jackson from the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, it was like seeing our memories of reading the books as teenagers come to life. Although Jackson and his collaborators did make some unfortunate changes from the books, the production values and the overall look of the films were about as perfect as they could be. When plans for making The Hobbit into a movie were released, with Guillermo del Toro attached as director, it seemed like more of a good thing. Unfortunately, del Toro was involved only long enough to take part in some ill-conceived alterations to Tolkien's prelude to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, extending the story to an untenable length of three feature films. Jackson had already made a few jokey missteps in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, like a dwarf-tossing gag and the eye-winking nod to his B-movie, horror film past in the chainsaw buzz of the vanquishing Army of the Dead in Return of the King. Those tendencies were magnified in the three films of The Hobbit, so that they are not worth the effort of numbering in detail.

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J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
(75th anniversary edition)
Most egregious is the wholesale addition of new characters, none more so than that of the elf warrior Tauriel, introduced primarily to add a female presence to a decidedly male-heavy story, complete with a ridiculous elf-dwarf love affair for no good reason. If Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly (Lost) had done something with the role, that would be one thing, but she is unfortunately nondescript in both the second and third movies. A self-parodying toady named Alfrid Lickspittle (Ryan Gage) is added for comic relief to the Laketown scenes, distracting from the better characterization of Stephen Fry as the Master. The work of all of the principals is so good -- Ian McKellen's grungy Gandalf, Lee Pace's disdainful Thranduil, Martin Freeman's wry and self-effacing Bilbo, Richard Armitage's vain and rage-filled Thorin -- that one regrets the much tighter two-film version that this mess could have been.

Tolkien fans will see this movie, just as they have all the others, with or without anyone's recommendation, but since the point of the final installment is the CGI excess of the battle scenes, they should see it, as Master Ionarts and I did, in IMAX 3D.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The entire movie is a blistering argument against making this a trilogy. Alternatively, they could have named it "Lord of the Boring" and it would have had the right audience expectation.