The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

How could I not review the final film of the Hobbit trilogy?

The Battle of the Five Armies is a good film. It is the best of the three films, and the shortest. It clocks in at two hours and twenty-four minutes. I think this is because Jackson did a tighter cut with this film compared to the others. I am certain there will be many added scenes to the extended addition, but none feel necessary.

The film begins with the death of Smaug. I think this was a mistake. The scene works as an action-packed opener for the film, yet it lacks the impact it would have had at the end of The Desolation of Smaug. This edit happened because the series was expanded from two films to three.

Once that scene is done, Jackson goes into the story proper, which is heavily focused on Thorin. Richard Armitage continues his fantastic work, showing us Thorin’s descent into madness. Martin Freeman gives a wonderful performance, particularly toward the end of the film.

Indeed, there is nothing wrong with any of the actors’ portrayals. Evangeline Lily, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, and Orlando Bloom continue to deliver. Pace’s performance was particularly interesting as we see his Elvishness play against Bard’s humanity. Luke Evans played the role of Bard well, keeping the character grounded and sensible compared to all the poor decisions being made by everyone else. Continue reading

The Last Goodbye

When I saw the teaser trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and heard The Edge of Night, I hoped that Peter Jackson would use that song for the ending credits. Billy Boyd has an amazing voice, and it would be great to hear a full version of the song.

Of course, Jackson did not do as I wanted. He did much better. The Last Goodbye is a perfect bookend not only to the Hobbit films, but to the Middle-Earth films in total.

This is easily my favorite song from the films. Continue reading

Review – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

As a Tolkien fan, how could I let the year end without reviewing about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Despite being a huge Batman fan, this was the film I most wanted to see, and I was not disappointed. I love Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. For Jackson to make a workable movie out of a book that Tolkien himself said was unfilmable is impressive. For Jackson and his team to capture all the emotion, sentiment, and most of the themes of the book while making only a handful of major changes speaks to their skill. So I knew that The Hobbit was in good hands.

Let us start with the obvious: the film looks gorgeous. I worried about the 48 frames per second being an issue, but it only took a few minutes to get used to it. After seeing the film three times, all in 3D, my only complaint is that the slow motion scenes look as if the actors are miming slow motion. That is a side-effect of the crispness that the higher frame rate brings.

Like the LotR films, The Hobbit was filmed in New Zealand, and Jackson makes great use of the locations. This is where the 3D shines. The scenes of the Dwarves trekking to the Misty Mountains look as if you are really there. The 3D works best in quiet long shots where there are enough foreground, midground, and background elements to really get the sense of separation. It works less with the staged 3D elements, like the fire embers rising out of Bilbo’s chimney and the shot-for-shot scene where the ring falls onto Bilbo’s outstretched finger just like it did Frodo’s in LotR. Continue reading

There and Back Again

My godson has taken on the monumental task of reading the Silmarillion, the Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings. At 11-years-old.

I read the parts of the books to him when he was younger, and he has watched all the films. He even made it through a marathon of all three films, although he started to lose it at the siege of Helm’s Deep.

At my warning he decided to start with the Hobbit, the easiest read, and has managed to read most of the book in a week. He got nothing done on Halloween because he was too busy enjoying his Byakuya costume. Since he decided to read the books, I thought I would read them again, too. Fortunately I have several copies of the books.

Coincidentally, Peter Jackson released a new vlog about the Hobbit films. This one focuses on the 3D cameras and techniques they used on the films. My favorite part is the end where Alan Lee and John Howe literally draw 3D pictures. Alan draws in red, while John draws in blue. They sit next to each other and match each other’s art work. Then Weta combines the images, which actually work, to create a 3D mock-up for what will later get filmed. If you have a pair of the old school glasses, put them on and watch the end of the video. It is actually hand-drawn 3D. Continue reading