The Hobbit: A Tale of being second best?
When I first heard about the release of The Hobbit trilogy, I expected nothing more than for it to be great, but not as great as the LOTR trilogy and that is exactly what I got.
However, before reviewing the final instalment to the Hobbit trilogy, by right there needs to be a summary of what The Hobbit represents. It is a prequel trilogy of the Lord of the Rings saga (LOTR), which also contains three films. The first LOTR film (The Fellowship of the Ring) came out in December 2001 and additionally around this time was the release of the first film from the Harry Potter saga – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which came out in November of the same year. Both the first Harry Potter and LOTR film enjoyed tremendous success, which arguably put pressure on their predecessors, which as expected did equally well in the box office. In fact each film from the LOTR trilogy are still well received today by the International Movie Database (IMDb) and are all in IMDb’s top 20 with LOTR: The Return of the King reaching no.9, LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring at no.11 and LOTR: The Two Towers at no.17, respectfully.
I give a shout out to the Harry Potter saga because historically along with the introduction of the LOTR, both franchises contain an abundance of great British actors and actresses with the occasional cameo and 2001 is definitely a year that will live long in the memory because of how it well and truly changed epic/fantasy film making for children and adults alike.
Now to why we’re all here… In December 2012, the first of three Hobbit films hit UK cinemas in the form of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This meant the pressure was well and truly on director Peter Jackson, who was at the helm of the immensely successful LOTR trilogy. The first Hobbit film arguably received mixed reviews. Some said it was too long drawn out and others said the reason for the lengthiness was that an explanation of the back-story was needed. I personally felt the film was at times a snooze fest, but I gave the benefit of the doubt and agreed with the latter. In December 2013 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was released, which was more well received by UK audiences compared to the first film, but then again was arguably carried by the commanding presence of Benedict Cumberbatch who voiced the dragon Smaug. With a title like The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies and its position as the conclusion to this epic trilogy, you would expect a big and over-the-top finale, much like the LOTR’s conclusion, The Return of the King. Perhaps not…
The final Hobbit chapter starts dramatically with Smaug the dragon furiously burning Lake Town to ruins and has a ‘wow factor’ that is ever so similar to how I felt when I first watched the action sequences of the LOTR films.
Unfortunately that’s where the action stops and for the remainder of the film it seems like one drawn out risk-free Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) film that really did fall short of my expectations. One scene in particular is of the character Legolas (played by Orlando Bloom) whose character jumps on pieces of a falling bridge to safety. The scene however, like many other scenes in The Battle of Five Armies is riddled with too much CGI, which in a sense highlights the falsity of The Hobbit’s take on Middle Earth. Even the final battles between all manners of creatures were unfortunately hit and miss because it lacked in providing something which had never been seen before. A commodity all The Hobbit films were guilty of.
Credit where credit’s due though with Martin Freeman’s portrayal as Bilbo Baggins who was the heart and soul of The Hobbit trilogy. Bilbo spends the entire trilogy as the level headed protagonist surrounded by irritating yet lovable dwarves. Freeman’s character really is an audience favourite who is relatable and one you endlessly root for to get back home to the warmth of The Shire.
I feel The Hobbit did not draw its audience in enough to the fantasy world of Middle Earth because of its abundance of CGI usage, which as a result fails where LOTR succeeded. Although there are CGI sequences in the LOTR trilogy, it thrived because of its depth of character build-up which had a way of drawing its audience in to this make believe world even when scenes seemed like they were dragging a little.
In conclusion, The Battle of Five Armies is a great epilogue to the three Hobbit films that will quite frankly be forever in the shadow of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Why? Because Peter Jackson did not approach The Hobbit films the same way he did the LOTR trilogy. With the LOTR films, Jackson challenged the norm of fantasy film and took risks, but as I said I am satisfied with the end product, I only wish that twenty minutes could have been used to extend the short lived, CGI filled, but intriguing fight scene between Sauron’s Nazgul, Saruman the wizard and Elrond the elf lord, but then again, I should probably read the books to fill that void.
Pluto rating – 8/10