If you were like most moviegoers this past Christmas, chances are you went to see the final Hobbit movie. The trailer was eye-catching when it used the haunting score from Billy Boyd (who played Pippin in the LOTR trilogy) to help remind audiences that in some way, this newest trilogy was going to tie in to the original one. But as I sat there in my comfy chair lamenting my popcorn-less state, something began to nag at the back of my brain as to why, despite my enthusiasm for all things Orlando Bloom and love of hand to hand combat, I just couldn’t get into The Hobbit series the way I did with Lord of the Rings. I knew it wasn’t because of Bloom’s cheekbones being filled out or the lack of ginger elves so it had to be something else.
By the way, there are spoilers in this article. Just an fyi.
Don’t think I didn’t enjoy the film. Visually, it was beautiful to watch and the cast has virtually no weak links, which is why I had to delve deep into my psyche to figure out why I was so disconnected from it. On paper it should have been on par with at least one of the original movies. Yet, for some strange reason it all rang hollow, as though everyone involved in the process stopped going for originality and decided to re-use arcs from the first time around.
That’s when it hit me. It was the love story that nearly ruined it. Love triangles in film – or any media for that matter – are rarely done right. This trilogy was no exception. The forced “love” between Kili/Tauriel/Legolas was downright painful to watch and induced more than one eye roll. This particular arc had already been done and it was done in a way that was natural between the characters. Having an elf fall in love with a dwarf is a bit of a stretch even in a world with trolls, enormous eagles, and Gollum. Tauriel’s arc had so much potential to introduce a normal female elf that can kick ass and take names. Why not keep it like that? Why introduce a love story that everyone knew would never amount to anything and detract from the other relationships in the trilogy?
One word: Pandering. That is what it felt like. It seemed as if the female writers were desperate for some repeat action of Arwen/Aragorn/Eowyn and decided at the last minute to write a love story in. Not that I blame them: the three actors involved are unbelievably good looking so why not include it? The answer to that question is that it just wasn’t necessary. The reason the whole thing felt forced is because it was, beginning with that ridiculous Arwen 2.0 scene in Desolation where Tauriel heals Kili. “Do you think she loved me?” he asked deliriously. Because apparently in the world of the Hobbit writers, making a dick joke=true love. If you don’t remember what I’m talking about, then you have just proved my point about this relationship.
In this film, the love story felt even more out of place since it took focus away from the other characters that shined. This is where the movie finally did something right. Galadriel kicked some serious ass in her only scene and essentially stole the film right out from under everyone else. It’s a prime example that sometimes a film doesn’t need its female characters to be involved in a love story in order to prove how strong she is. Galadriel, in the hands of the skilled Cate Blanchett, strikes a flawless balance between femininity and strength – something Tauriel was supposed to do but in the end failed because she turned into a fan fiction version of a hot mess. Though this particular scene in the film was not in the book, it answers a lot of questions that went unanswered in the original trilogy. For instance, how did Saruman come to be so corrupted by power? Did he just sign up for a special club? Did he call ahead and make an appointment? Did he friend Sauron on Facebook or maybe even poke him? In this scene with the four major players of the White Council, that question is answered along with whether or not Elrond could really fight. Sure we got a brief glimpse during Fellowship of the Ring but Hugo Weaving was in top fighting form this movie.
Another thing that stood out was the chemistry between Luke Evans and Lee Pace, who played Bard the Bowman and Thranduil. To be clear, it’s not a romantic chemistry but rather one that makes you wonder if maybe it was a bit of real life camaraderie peeking through. Bard is an intriguing character and Evans brings that extra special something that he possesses to his character, which makes you want to see Bard more. Just thinking about the scene in where he uses his son as a launching mechanism to kill Smaug gives me the chills (in a good way); it’s also one of the few times the music elevated a scene. In the book, Bard is really the only guy at this point in the story to remain levelheaded and unaffected by the “poisoned” gold and the movie portrays that perfectly. He has no interest in taking the Mountain, only making sure Thorin keeps his word about repaying the debt. He has this habit of pointing out that his entire town just got burned to a crisp thanks to Thorin and his merry band of dwarves so the Laketown people are due their cut to rebuild. Bard teams up with Thranduil, whose indifference to…well, everything is put to the test because Bard, a mere human, managed to kill a dragon and even in Middle Earth that’s a pretty rare feat. Thranduil’s scenes with Bard are serious but entertaining because Bard doesn’t put up with Thranduil’s sassiness and is so not impressed with the elf’s moose; and Thranduil has mad respect for Bard because the dude just killed Smaug like it was nothing. Also, even the man’s kids are likable and that is more rare than slaying a dragon.
If Jackson made a movie about those two, I would watch that all day, every day.
Thranduil gets but only a few scenes, yet Pace, like Blanchett and Weaving, makes the most of his screen time. We see him in action and all ninja like until he runs into Tauriel. In one of her bitchiest moves, she calls him heartless and that he has no love in him. Like she is suddenly the Danielle Steele of Elves? Yet with a character like Thranduil, it’s obvious he loves his son because that’s his kid and he made it clear that Legolas is way out of Tauriel’s league and he wouldn’t let his son be with such a lowly elf. Can we just agree that the man has great instincts? Because Tauriel became worse than Bella Swan when it came to love – and in effect, Legolas was too hurt by her rejection to go back to Mirkwood. So not only did Thranduil lose his wife (as we learned in a sweet scene between Legolas and Tauriel), but now he’s lost his son. When he nearly slices Tauriel in half for her insolence, Legolas threatens that Thranduil would have to kill him in order to get to her. So the heartless Thranduil relinquishes his chance to kill her. For a man like him, that is a huge moment. It’s the same kind of action Elrond took to make sure Arwen would survive by giving her what she wanted in Return of the King even though he thought she deserved better (see what I mean about recycled story lines?). If anything, their interactions prove that for an elf, Tauriel has a very limited view of her own kind. Yes, Thranduil is a massive jerk but underneath, he does have a heart and in his parting scene with Legolas, you get the sense that even though he doesn’t want to lose his son, he puts aside his own wishes and tells Legolas that he is loved – not outright of course, but in Thranduil’s own special way. Honestly, that scene moved me more than any of the deaths that happened.
The third and final thing the film got right were all the major deaths. With canon interpretations, one never knows if the writers will stick to the material when it comes to beloved characters and their demises. With Tauriel, her fate was in the air as she was an original character (with an unoriginal story arc), but the deaths of some of the dwarves were made clear in the novel. However, since there were so many things that were changed or alternated from the source material, and clearly the writers were giving in to their own desires, I wasn’t sure if they would keep the deaths in. One major complaint about the book is that since it’s from Bilbo’s POV, it has a limited scope on what’s happening outside of that specific moment. He gets knocked out and the aftermath of the battle is explained. This allowed the writers freedom to decide how, where and when characters died. The dwarves that died did so with a clear purpose as Thorin’s company was all about its tight relationships and loyalty to one another. Yet the moment Tauriel appeared, Kili became the black sheep. Remember in the first one with that extremely long rock fight between the stone people and they thought Kili had died? Thorin and Fili almost had a heart attack. No sign of brotherly in this one. Any emotion coming from Kili was directed toward the redheaded elf. He might not as well have been in the dwarf company anymore.
However, this is about what the movie did right. That belongs to the theme of power and how money can corrupt those with even the purest intent. Smaug had warned Bilbo that Thorin would be turned and that is exactly what happens. You see his decline by the “cursed” gold: dragon’s greed had seeped into the money and tarnished it, thus affecting those who came into contact with it. It was one of those nice touches that does in fact tie in with Frodo’s journey in the first trilogy. This was also shown with Bilbo resisting the power of the money and trying to do the right thing. His scene with Thranduil, Bard, and Gandalf was awkward, which is probably the intention as Bilbo is indeed out of place amongst those surrounding him. He doesn’t want gold, he doesn’t want power; Bilbo just wants to save his friends from an inevitable war and go home.
In regards to what went wrong with the film, I’ve already shown my distaste for including the love story, which in my humble opinion, pretty much assassinated most of the characters development by making into them into wussies when it came to dealing with Tauriel. What’s so frustrating is that she could have genuinely been a great addition and she was right up until that moment of healing. Evangeline Lilly is a beautiful actress with incredible talent to back it up but she is not Liv Tyler. Lilly’s voice lacks the silkier tone that makes Tyler stand out and the authoritativeness that Blanchett owns, making it difficult to believe that a basic warrior elf suddenly has the healing powers of Arwen and the influence of Galadriel.
Now this is where the spoilers I talked about comes in big time.
In the book, Fili and Kili died defending Thorin; in the movie, Fili is basically thrown away and Kili dies to protect Tauriel. What made this so offensive is that the dwarves’ tightly knit company and Thorin’s protectiveness over the two youngest in the group is based on the fact that they are kin. The theme of family ran strong throughout their arc and what makes Kili and Fili’s death so sad. They died protecting someone they believed in and trusted. Their deaths meant something; in the film, Kili’s death was prolonged so that he could share a romantic eye stare with Tauriel. It was nauseating and completely undermined what the writers had been trying to tell us all along: the family bond is stronger than anything. It was the reason why the dwarves stayed in the Mountain even though Thorin was going crazy. They weren’t going to abandon him. The message that they ended up giving was that family only matters until a beautiful woman comes along and then nothing else is important. It was a disgusting way to cater to what they thought women would want to see and fans that had been waiting for the final chapter of the story when in reality, all that was required was strong character development and a wrap up as to what happened. Yet the writers never included what happened with the Arkenstone, which played such an important role in each of the films, what happened with the dwarves, and how the Laketown people got on. And let’s face it: Bard the Bowman was a character that stole every scene he was in. I look forward to the next movie with a love story between him and Galadriel.
For all the complaints of Return of the King having too many ending, Battle of the Five Armies had too little. They sacrificed character development, proper story arcs, and tying up loose ends for a romance that amounted to literally nothing. It served no purpose and improved nothing in regards to any of the story lines and that is why Battle of the Five Armies will fail to achieve the cult status that the original trilogy did. There was no heart in it, no love shown for the characters except Tauriel. Granted, the novel was far more child friendly, thus making it difficult to have it as dark as LOTR. Also, the stakes weren’t as high as in Lord of the Rings. The Lonely Mountain battle wasn’t as breathtaking as that final battle at Mordor because frankly, Aragorn gave a spectacular speech and that shot of Merry and Pippin being the first to run in support of Aragorn was enough to give the viewer goose bumps. Unfortunately, in the Hobbit series, there aren’t any of those rallying moments that make one hope everyone comes out alive. The music itself was different and changed the tone so that even the quieter moments passed by unnoticed.
Overall, The Hobbit series is fun to watch. It’s far more lighthearted than its predecessor; however, because of that, it is difficult to feel any deep emotions for the characters and get involved the way the first trilogy was able to do. Everything was just a little too different while trying to reclaim the glory of Lord of the Rings. If anything, you can watch it to see the background moments of some of the supporting characters from the first trilogy. It was great to see Galadriel flexing her powers, Legolas doing something other than standing around (who knew he could fight that good?), and there is no such thing as too much Gandalf. But that is about all that is memorable; the music that had been able to evoke so many emotions a decade ago was nowhere to be found; the evolution of Bilbo became secondary for a laughable side love story; and there are still too many threads loosely strung about to make this a satisfying last entry.
Still, I would pay to see it again in a heartbeat because of three reasons: 1) Galadriel, 2) Thranduil and Bard (together or separate, it doesn’t really matter), and 3) the opening sequence. Unfortunately, that’s about it. Silver lining: you get to see a very pretty cast the entire time. And Peter Jackson needs to get going on that Thranduil/Bard spin-off.