[Note: I do not consider myself a movie critic. What follows is just one fanboy’s opinion based off of a single viewing of the film. Oh, and there are SPOILERS ahead, so take heed.]
This one has been stewing in my head since December. I took a stab at writing a review of TBOTFA back in January, but it was far too long. Here is the boiled-down version of that review in convenient Fanboy Movie Review format!
And a 1…and a 2…
First Impressions: While many didn’t like the first Hobbit movie, I did. Many thought the second Hobbit movie was far better, but I didn’t. (What was up with that gold statue anyway? And that barrel sequence?) This movie strikes me as being needlessly overcomplicated in almost every aspect. It embodies the ‘bloat’ effect of this trilogy.
What I Liked:
- Thranduil. We get a sense of how powerful he is. This is what it looks like when the Elven King goes to war.
- Thorin cured himself of the Dragon Greed, and made an epic comeback.
- Speaking of the Dragon Greed, the cool way Thorin’s voice started to sound like a dragon.
- War Rams! I’m not sure where they came from, exactly, or where they went afterwards, but sign me up!
- The White Council laying the smackdown on the Nazghul. While Galadriel was inert for most of the scene, I must admit that her banishment of Sauron was pretty cool.
- Smaug’s final speech. I still think that should have been the end of the second movie, but any scenes with Cumberbatch/Smaug, I’m destined to like (except the death scene, explained below.)
- Speaking of Smaug, this is why you fear fire dragons. That first strafing pass over Laketown was terrifying. I am fire…I am death.
- Thorin’s death scene. Armitage and Freeman nail every point of this scene. To me this scene is every bit as powerful as Boromir’s death in Fellowship of the Ring. Wow.
What I Didn’t Like:
- The human ‘army’ is the smallest and least impressive of the five armies, yet only a handful can somehow hold off scores of rampaging orcs in plate mail.
- The Elven army sort of disappears at times. It seemed like there are thousands of them lining the battlements of Dale, but during the battle it feels like they just vanish.
- Both the Elven and Dwarven armies are so uniform in appearance that they look like a video game. There is nothing remotely believable about them.
- We trade out main characters in this movie. Most of the original 13 dwarves are barely seen and have almost no screen time. Bard and Legolas have a much greater part than even Bilbo, after whom the movie is named.
- Legolas jumping along falling blocks of stone. I started laughing.
- Bard kills Smaug with an improvised, cobbled together bow, instead of the Wind Lance, which they had previously showed us. And how is his son not dead again?
- Stephen Fry’s mayor character? Yep, as superfluous as I thought.
- ALFRED! The entire character is useless, annoying, and gets away with no consequences to his actions.
- Fili and Kili and their punk deaths. They deserved better than that.
- That weird kite thing that Azog uses to direct his troops. Did no one see him setting that up?
- If the orcs had pressed their attack, they would have won. Sending troops into Dale was completely unnecessary.
- The arrival of the giant eagles was underwhelming, and the force of orcs they stop seems miniscule compared to that first establishing shot of Azog’s main army.
- Azog busting out of the ice. Let me say that again: AZOG BUSTING OUT OF THE ICE.
- Tauriel doesn’t get to take down Bolg. In fact, she doesn’t get to do much of anything in this film.
- Thorin’s cousin, Dain. What a cartoon character, and not in a good way.
Unresolved Questions (At Least In My Mind):
Too many to list in a simple blog post. Most of them have nothing to do with the plot of the movie, and more to do with the decisions that led them down this path. This is the same team that gave us the original LOTR trilogy, which I love. The unresolved question in my mind is simply: Oh, Peter Jackson, what happened?
I went back and watched the original LOTR trilogy. More than a decade on, and they are still excellent. I still don’t care for the parts like Legolas and the Oliphant, but the emotion is there, same as it ever was. Sure, Gollum doesn’t look as polished as he did in the first Hobbit movie, but Lurtz, captain of the Uruk-Hai, is still terrifying. Why? Because it is a man in make-up, not a CGI construct. The effects in the new Hobbit trilogy looked bad in the theatre, so just think of how dated they will seem as time passes.
As I said, TBOTFA embodies how bloated and overdone the Hobbit trilogy is. Most of it felt unnecessary and gratuitous, with none of the deep emotional resonance of LOTR. I tried to like this movie, I really did. While there are gems seeded throughout the film, you have to suffer through endless digital armies clashing over and over again to get to them.
Are we fortunate or unfortunate that TBOTFA will likely be the last movie set in Middle-Earth? I’m still trying to work my way through that one.
In the end, it feels as though this movie is a Master’s thesis in missed opportunities. We end the trilogy not with a bang, but a Star Wars-esque whimper.
And that’s how this fanboy sees it.