Is this Battle of the 5 Armies or World of Warcraft?
I‘m trying to count the armies. How do they add up to 5? No bother. When a team of elves arrives with a salad bar on wheels, it’s a trap. As always, I’ll tell you when the spoilers come. Harkening back to my Hobbit Part I review, we have a saga that, unlike LOTR, begins as an enchanting romp and slowly grows darker. The final installment was as rich as all the others (at times, too rich in the wrong places and not enough rich in others), and it left my childlike self satisfied. As a fan, I had plenty of “meh” moments, but as an overall enjoyer of the story, I had fun. I was happy that I had completed the journey, but sad it was over. I was happy to have seen one more Peter Jackson retelling, but also sort of sad to…have seen yet another Peter Jackson retelling. The first film was like a guide into a slowly darkening and twisting world, the second like a confrontation with that web of darkness. The third made us battle the darkness like iron against iron.
As with the first two, the biggest problem with the Hobbit is the addiction to 3D. But here’s where I can forgive the third film: You need a reliance on CGI for a mythical battle, and you need it to be epic to compete in today’s movie experience. That being said, however, there were still too much battle, and less character development, than I desired. If you’re going to overuse the “last minute save” routine in which a character kills an antagonist milliseconds before another character is killed, at least show more time of those characters being characters first. Granted, we had plenty in the previous films, but we need to be reminded when you split it up into another movie.
Bilbo found two things in that cave in part 1: A ring, and his courage. In the second film, we saw his courage tested by his possession of the ring. In this film his loyalty is tested. When battle comes, who will he look out for? It’s a pleasing action movie with all the parts of the end of the Hobbit needed. As a Middle Earth movie, it’s not exactly the film we would hope to end with. Part of us wishes the hectilogy(?) had been made in reverse. I enjoyed the film, but only because after watching the first two I realized I had to throw all the logic of being a fan out the window and approach it with manufactured naiveté. I even learned to tolerate Tauriel. And as I watched Legolas get a leg up on a legless troll, I had to remember that this was also made for 10-year-old kids to rediscover with their parents. I was waiting for Lego Legolas.
________________________________________________________________________________________ *And now we will get into SPOILERS and discussions.
Anti-climax? That’s what I worried would happen when the second film ended. Will we really have to start the next movie with the ultimate dragon battle? But the book does the same thing. The dragon dies, and we still have pages to go. Because one thing that made The Hobbit stand out as fantasy literature is that the quest only appears to be about slaying a dragon. The book is about the—I’m gonna say it—stewardship of the bling. Condensed, if LOTR is about power, Hobbit is about money. Both overlap, like the books. But just as The Hobbit is more for children than LOTR, so too lessons about money simpler than lessons about power. At the end of this film we can see why in LOTR the quest is not to gain something, but destroy it. This is why when Smaug dies, the real dragon awakens. We see it in the mayor, who hoards Laketown’s treasury and tries to escape, and in the petty greed of Alfred, the sniveling comic relief who’s an odd mixture of Wormtongue and Captain Hook’s Shmee. We see it in Thorin’s dragon sickness, Thranduil’s begrudging claim, Laketown’s hungry desparation, Saruman’s foreshadowed treaty with evil, Sauron’s orchish armies, Bilbo’s final temptations to preserve only himself and run away.
And so we have a political mess here, where for a while everyone has emerged triumphant but one group is the “good guy.” Nobody can see past their own narrative and their own identity to notice that they are all beings of the Valar whose priorities are the same when the servants of darkness truly come. Smaug is like any disaster that tests humanity. He does his damage, but the damage that really burns is what we do to one another in its wake. Famine, fire, drought, market crashes, hurricanes. Governments hoard resources, village squabble, people loot, response teams kill minorities. We release a worse dragon just when the first one seems slain. In case you forgot, the film reminds you that behind all this is that bad dude from LOTR, Sauron. And although it looked like a video game battle, I can’t complain of the battle at Dol Goldur. It flowed like a video game, but didn’t show off like one.
In the first film, Bilbo confronted Gollum, a dark version of himself. In the second he confronted Smaug, a dark representation of everything. In the third, Bilbo must confront both his inner Gollum and the outer Smaug of the world at war with itself. He must choose not to hoard, not to flee, not to act rashly. In this film, all his actions are done with good intentions, even if faulty.
This was a film where everyone failed but a select few individuals, and those individuals where the “smallest”—the halfling, the oft-ignored wizard, the 12 loyal dwarves, the smelly fisherman and his children. Bilbo carries the Arkenstone of Weealth and the One Ring of Power, but what he treasures most is his acorn. “If this is to end in fire,” said Thorin, “we shall burn together.” Were it not for the actions of a brave and selfless few, it would have ended in fire and more fire, with all good burning. Unless you put the past behind you—who betrayed who, who owes who for something years ago, who used to rule where and when. People of the world must unite to fight the real evils of the wold, the ones that corrupt us. When Thorin looked down in the golden pool at the reflection of Smaug, he was confronting his inner dragon sickness. He did the same when he gazed into the frozen pond at Azog, saw that he greater monster he had slain wasn’t an orc, but his corrupted psyche. He died in time to be a hero.
Bilbo used the ring one last time, not to run away, but to run toward a crisis to save someone. True to the book, he gets knocked out during the battle, only in the book he misses most of the battle, because Tolkien didn’t want his tale to touch on the battle much at all. After all, Tolkien hates war. The point Tolkien was making is that a soul as pure as Bilbo’s can’t be effective in battle. He’s even supposed to be invisible when he’s knocked out, just as Hobbiton is invisible to the world’s warring. But the prize for being useless is that he can remain intact. He is made braver, but not fiercer. He carries the most corrupting thing in the world back to the Shire, and he still grows up to be a jolly old soul. But when he returns, he returns to the dragon: A crowd seeking to ransack the “fortress” of his Hobbit hole and auction off all his supplies. This is Hobbiton’s version of Smaug, of war, of greed. And it’s comical, if not very subtly unnerving. Because when he enters his empty Hobhole, the foil to the gold-filled cavern, he is tempted to wear the little evil he innocently brought back with him. One day, that thing will have to be destroyed, and thanks to Gandalf, he’s better off not knowing. (Also in the book, the ending scene of The Hobbit echoes the beginning of the other British novel, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which the main character’s house being demolished to make room for a road foreshadows planet earth being destroyed to make room for a larger galaxy’s construction—also, both roles played by Martin Freeman. This has been a lesson in macrocosm, microcosm.)
And the journey comes full circle. You know, like a ring.
Oh, and my two biggest complaints: 1)The thrush. In the book, Bilbo spots Smaug’s weakness, a thrush hears it, and reports it to Bard, who can now slay Smaug. This is not only crafty storytelling, but essential to the story. It shows Bilbo’s cleverness at being able to spot the small things to destroy the big things, the power of the weak over the strong, and Biblo’s link to Bard.
2) Beorn. Really? Everyone waits for the bear to tear through some orcs, and he shows up right at the end for ten seconds? For this alone, Peter Jackson, I should toss you over the wall!
“The Last Goodbye” by Billy Boyd