The Hobbit Trilogy – There and Disappointed

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((Please be advised that there are some spoilers in this review. If you have not seen the movie, read Tolkein’s work, and/or want to be surprised, please stop right now. I have no intention of outright spoiling the movie, but several criticisms focus on specific character developments that may surprise viewers. This is your only warning…))

I want to preface this with the understanding that, overall, I enjoyed the Hobbit trilogy. The first two movies felt much more focused than the broad scope of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, like a fun D&D adventure with friends. In addition, I’ve always been critical of the over-dramatization of the Frodo & Sam aspects of LotR, which dragged on when we could be having more fun with Aragorn’s story. That being said, now that I’ve seen “The Battle of the Five Armies”, I have to say I feel a little… disappointed. The final installment of the Hobbit is not a bad movie, per se, but I feel the Hobbit movies moved in the opposite direction of LotR. Whereas each of the LotR series became better, ending on a high note, and wrapping up what felt like a grand adventure… the Hobbit movies slowly moved downhill, ending rather anticlimactically, and leaving us returning home with unanswered questions.

The first problem was the shoe-horned side plot of the Necromancer and Dol Guldur, events drawn from the LotR appendices rather than “The Hobbit”. Although the movies make it seem this plot is entwined (and it partially is, if you read Tolkein’s work), the story line just sort of sidetracks here and then… ends. There’s no real sense of relationship to the main quest other than a cursory mention of “Orcs were here and now they’re going there”. If they had done a better job showing how Dul Guldur was related to the Quest of Erebor, particularly Gandalf’s motivation, it might have been better. Sadly, though, this side plot felt like parts of the Star Wars prequels: thrown in there as a nod to the previous movies rather than anything important to the current story.

The second issue was the attempt to draw out aspects of the main plot itself, which really would have resolved quite quickly. They focused too much on things like Thorin’s downward spiral, the antagonism between the different factions, and the personal drama between the many characters. All of this felt forced, placed into the movie as filler for what would’ve simply been a grand battle like the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in LotR. Thorin’s psychological battle was probably the worst, his shift in personality feeling as badly done as the fall of Anakin Skywalker. What’s even more disappointing, though, was they chose to gloss over some characters and events, giving them negligible screen time all so they could focus on these overdrawn social and mental conflicts. The 20 seconds of screen time given to Beorn was almost insulting given his role in the books; instead, they chose to hand his role to fan-favorite Legolas and spend more time on character drama.

The third concern focuses on the unnecessary humor they tried to fit in. The other movies had a lighter tone, so the occasional joke or quip was acceptable. This movie, though, had some dark moments yet they still tried to shoe-horn in the occasional silliness and it felt anti-thematic. The writers and directors kept force-feeding humor about an antagonistic character they mostly made up for the movies. People are dying all around in what seems a lost cause, sacrificing themselves while innocents run for their lives… yet we have time to pause for a man-in-drag joke.

The final, and probably biggest, critique was the lack of conclusion for most of the characters. The Battle ends with tears and a somber tone… and then Bilbo says his goodbyes and goes home. There’s no revelation to what happened to anyone else, except a single nod for Legolas role in the previous movies. Who rules now that Thrain’s line is dead? What happens to Bard and the people of Lake-Town? What did Thranduil do next? They didn’t even finish out their own movie creations, like Tauriel. If you’ve read Tolkein’s works, you know the answers to most of those questions, but some of these were answered in “The Hobbit”, yet the writers didn’t include them. You can add plots from other material, new characters, and draw out dramatic scenes to stretch the book into three movies… but you can’t even include conclusions in the core material you’re presenting? Something seems very wrong with that approach…

In conclusion, while I don’t think The Hobbit trilogy was horrible in any sense, I feel it was a let down overall. Whereas I had high hopes at first, I feel the LotR series combined to form a stronger whole. The Hobbit had potential, but it stumbled in its last act. Maybe it will read better in later viewings, but I’m afraid it’ll be there and back… disappointed again.

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