16 January 2015

Tolkien, the Lord of the Rings, and a (sort of) Hobbit movie review

January 3rd would have been JRR Tolkien's 123rd birthday!

I have been a fan of Tolkien since I was a teenager. I think I have read the Hobbit about a dozen times and the Lord of the Rings books at least half as many times. I used to try to re-read them every year, but I have not had the chance to do so the past few years. I have attempted The Silmarillion several times, but have not yet managed to finish that one. I also have not read most of his other work, although I do have seven more of his books waiting on my bookshelf.

The Lord of the Rings movies are among my favorite movies of all time. I saw each one in the theatre for the first time at a midnight line party (and yes, I did dress up) and then saw each of them at least five times. I have had countless marathons, of the theatrical and the extended editions. I spent my New Year's Day watching the extended editions of Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. I would have watched Return of the King as well, but a friend came over, so I had to watch it the following day instead. It still counts as a marathon! (I admit that I read that in Gimli's voice). Despite the liberties the Peter Jackson took with the movies, I think they are very well done and they just grab me. I become emotionally invested in the movies, crying in the same places every time, even though I know what is going to happen. I also still discover new things with each viewing. To me, the movies are timeless. The music is as well. I even walked down the aisle to "Concerning Hobbits" and our first dance was to Enya's "Only Time." I still get chills when I hear "The White Tree." The LOTR is MY fandom, and I have the totes full of action figures and collectables to prove it. My house bears decor of plates mounted on swords, of mounted weapons, and of statues. I am not ashamed to admit I have the theatrical DVDs, the extended edition DVDs, the original movie scores, and the extended edition movie scores.

When I heard that, after years of legal issues and other problems, that the Hobbit movies were finally going to be made and that Peter Jackson was going to direct them, I was absolutely ecstatic. I anxiously awaited all news and information about the movies. When I heard that PJ was going to split the book into two movies, I was a bit concerned, but I still trusted his judgement so I did not think too much about it. Then it turned into three movies, and that had me scratching my head a bit. The book is barely 300 pages - that is 100 pages a movie! But I know how detailed PJ can be, so I decided not to judge until I had the chance to see the movies.

I bought my tickets for the first showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the day they went on sale. That was when movie theatres and studios were trying to attract more people to early showings, so the movie actually started at 10 PM, not at midnight. I still arrived at the theatre more than two hours early, expecting there to be a line party or at least some activities happening. Nope, just a few people in the theatre, and I do not even remember anyone being in costume. I brought my well-read copy of the book with me and proceeded to read it while waiting for the movie to start, which was really my biggest mistake. With the book being so fresh in my mind, I could not help but nit-pick the entire movie as I watched. I did not enjoy the movie at all and I left the theatre extremely disappointed. However, my husband, who had at that point attempted to read the book several times without success, was not as hard on the movie as I was, so when the Blu Ray was released, we added it to our collection. I did, however, enjoy the score (which I had also pre-ordered but did not listen to until after I saw the movie).

I still followed news about the second movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I like tradition, so when the tickets went on sale, I again bought them. This time the early showing was 8 PM. I did not bother getting to the theatre early, which was fine because I guess line parties are a thing of the past and no one likes to dress in costume for movies anymore. I did not make the mistake of rereading the book so that I would have a less biased opinion of the movie. I ended up leaving the theatre even more pissed off this time. I could understand PJ "adding" characters from Tolkien's cannon into the LOTR trilogy, but creating a character for the sake of creating a character was a bit too much for me. Also, the first movie was pretty close to 100 pages of text. The second movie was closer to 150 pages. What did that leave for the final movie? Since I started the Blu Ray collection, I did buy the movie, but I did not even open it. I did not even bother buying the score, although I think the music was probably the best part of the movie.

Now I only had a passing interest in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Of course I was going to see it. I had to see how it ended. The date of the presale tickets came and went. Granted, I was sick and knew I was likely going to have surgery, but I was in no rush to buy tickets. I did not even technically buy the tickets. I bought two $25 Red Robin gift cards and registered each of them, which gave me two free vouchers for tickets to see the movie. I finally watched both movies again (a mini-marathon!) shortly after Christmas. I was feeling better, so on New Year's Eve I printed my vouchers and went to my second-choice theatre. I tried to keep an open mind, but I could not shut off my brain. Why was Legolas even in this movie? And why the heck did PJ feel the need to invent a dwarf-elf romance? Dwarves, Elves, Men, Orcs - where is the fifth army that is IN THE TITLE OF THE MOVIE (BTW, that would be the Wolves)? There were just so many things wrong with the movie that I could not enjoy it. I did like the score. Again. So I will probably purchase both scores eventually. And I am sure I will buy the Blu Ray when it is released just to complete the collection. But to me, the series just did not live up to my expectations.

There are a few things about the Hobbit Trilogy that I did enjoy (besides the music). I loved Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. After Ian Holmes in the LOTR Trilogy, I did not think I would like anyone else as Bilbo, but I was wrong. In the book, I absolutely hated Thorin from the very beginning. In the movies, Richard Armitage brought out a side of Thorin that I actually wanted to like (and kind of did the first two movies). Honestly, the acting was great all around. The breathtaking landscapes reminded me that New Zealand is still on my bucket list of places to visit. Preferably in the very near future. Like, I was seriously looking at travel information for Australia and New Zealand for 2016.

The Hobbit movies may not become an annual movie marathon tradition like the LOTR movies. Maybe one day I will be crazy enough to have a Hobbit/LOTR weekend. I do not care that the Hobbit also has extended editions (because at least for LOTR, PJ was up front about extended editions being released so people could wait to buy those and not be blindsided). If Peter Jackson decides to direct any more Middle Earth movies (the Silmarillion!?) of course I will be at the theatre, just maybe not at the earliest showing

Just kidding, I will probably buy the presale tickets the day they do on sale.


  1. I so know what you mean. I was much more of a LOTR book fan than a Hobbit fan too, so I knew I wasn't going to like the movies as much, but I was SO disappointed (and I haven't watched the third one).

    I was actually really hopeful for the second one because, I'm also a Sherlock fan, and seeing Martin Freeman and Benadict Cumberbatch match wits as dragon and hobbit sounded like pure gold (and it wasn't too bad...if they hadn't tried to drag it on so long)

    I wouldn't have minded if they had added extra characters if it just hadn't felt so contrived. Like, adding Legolas and the girl elf character who's name I can't even remember---I could see it, but the way they handled it had me groaning. Really, a crude comment is how the dwarf got an Elf, who are sort of humorless and who would usually be loathe to spend any attention on a dwarf, to notice him? And, ok, I can see having the dwarfs come in an help Bilbo, especially after the sort of change of portrayal that PJ gave them...but again, they way they help is so contrived...talking about how no fire is hot enough to start the furnaces, ext (that's just a tad "on the nose" doncha think), and we just happen to be building a giant gnome.

    And the violence...well, thank you PJ for making a movie about a children's book that I can't show my children until they're 18. I liked seeing the elves fight, but seriously, PJ how many heads do you really need to show being wacked off?

    (OK, rant over. Glad I'm not the only one).

    1. :). Nope, not the only one. And you are right, there was so much unnecessary violence!