Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Hobbit Trilogy

Well into his later years, living in simple comfort on the Shire, Bilbo Baggins begins writing the tale of his epic journey when an old wizard recruited him to aid a gang of motley dwarves in reclaiming their once prestigious homestead, now completely obliterated by a treacherous and seemingly insurmountable dragon. Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" shares many of the positive attributes of the Lord of the Rings series including great scenery, musical score, elements of comradery, the presence of Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis in their now iconic roles, and even adds to the mix a more quickly paced plot line and an ideally cast Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo Baggins. It does though contain the same propensity for overblown all-inclusiveness, with Jackson never knowing when to quit, and promises to be just as protracted as the initial series (we barely even get a glimpse of Smaug here). Furthermore, although we thankfully see very little of the intolerable title creatures, the dwarves are more than happy to take up their headache inducing mantle. But these quibbles could be chalked up to a matter of my own personal taste and will surely be embraced by fans of J.R.R. Tolkein's book and the prior film installments. What certainly (and sadly) damages the film is Jackson's decision to shoot at 48 frames per second which adds very little, if anything to the 3D process (which was sighted as the reason for filming at that rate) and gives the film an ugly gloss and moves with the fluidity of a video game. This is all the more disappointing when reflecting on the first movies and that seamless blend of live-action and CGI,  and how we've only made a few strides on another bombastic excursion.
An Unexpected Journey (2012): ** 1/2 out of ****

The second and third installment of The Hobbit trilogy checks in once again with Bilbo, Gandalf, an increasingly ego inflated Thorin Oakenshield, and the rest of the barely defined dwarfs as they gear up for a showdown with the destructive Smaug and the more dastardly prospect of all out war. The Desolation of Smaug drops the unnatural, video game feel of the first movie and thankfully returns to the faithful form of the LOTR movies, yet is still meandering, never getting to the point, and moreover, again leaves you questioning why the book deigned this mammoth treatment. The Battle of the Five Armies is very watchable but still feels very unnecessary with (spoiler) Smaug oddly meeting his demise before the opening credits role and the rest of the film revolving around the anticlimactic eponymous battle. Also, Martin Freeman is regrettably absent from most of film. To sum it up, what count have been a tidy little Tolkein victory lap for Peter Jackson was instead both a bizarre, bilious experimentation (at first) and a bloated, unending, and overblown journey.
The Desolation of Smaug (2013): ** 1/2 out of ****

The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) ** 1/2 out of ****