I can’t say exactly when I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit for the first time, but suffice to say it was a very long time ago, when I was in the 5th or 6th grade. Since then I’ve read it again on numerous occasions, along with pretty much anything else Middle Earth related. I own books upon books, maps, posters, art and DVD movie collections. But none of that prepared me for what I saw yesterday afternoon when I saw Hobbit III in 3D on the big screen.
Let’s get the good out of the way quickly. Some of you will be surprised that I was able to find any good at all, but the truth is that Hobbit III, like its predecessors Hobbits I and II, managed to be visually appealing and structurally appalling all at the same time. Middle Earth is displayed in the same splendor that first greeted Tolkienphiles in Fellowship of the Ring, which debuted way back in 2001. Also, it can be said that the acting in Hobbit III was generally pretty good.
For me, things break down after that, and unlike the good feelings I had after watching all three movies in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings franchise, the first two Hobbit movies cost me extended periods of rectal puckering, and I’m sad to say that Hobbit III was no different.
What follows will not be your typical movie review, and is based entirely on my somewhat dazed recollections. It does contain spoilers, so be advised!
SPOILER ALERT ~ SPOILER ALERT ~ SPOILER ALERT
- The movie opens with a bang, as a really pissed-off Smaug is out to give Lake Town a good toasting. He swoops about, destroying almost everything, but somehow misses a really tall steeple, which is the tallest building in town. Bard the Bowman takes a sniper position in the steeple, firing arrows at the marauding dragon until he runs out of ammunition. Things look pretty grim up there for Bard, because now Smaug has spotted him and gives the steeple a glancing blow with his powerful wing. But now Bard’s son is climbing the steeple, and he’s bringing with him a giant steel arrow that he’s retrieved from somewhere. Bard takes the arrow, but oh shit, now his bow is broken, too. Not to worry, however, because while Smaug watches from a distance and taunts the bowman, Bard is rigging his bowstring between two wooden uprights, then, using his son’s shoulder to brace the arrow, fires the fatal shot. Smaug dies, Lake Town is a shambles, and we’re only 10-15 minutes in.
- The scene shifts to the Lonely Mountain, where Bilbo and most of the dwarves are watching the destruction of Lake Town like fans sitting in the upper deck at a football game. But something is very wrong with the company’s leader, Thorin Oakenshield, who’s in a nasty funk because no one can find the Arkenstone. He’s got a bad case of Dragon Fever, and is accusing everyone of incompetence or corruption. Despite the fact that the mountain is filled with so much gold that it will take decades to sort it all, he’s certain that the Arkenstone should have been found by now.
- Lake Town isn’t the only thing smoldering, as next we’re treated to a revival of the unholy elf-dwarf romance between Kili and Tauriel. They’d be rutting right there on the demolished boardwalk if not for Legolas, who drafts Tauriel for a secret mission to Mount Gundabad. As a parting gift, Kili gives Tauriel a rune-carved rock. Maybe I should know what the rock says, but I don’t.
- Meanwhile, Bard has assumed charge in what’s left of Lake Town. Egged on by the cross-dressing villain Alfred, he leads the homeless fisherfolk up the slopes of the Lonely Mountain to seek shelter and recompense from the dwarves who provoked all the ruckus.
Back at Mount Gundabad, which Legolas and Tauriel have reached quickly despite the fact that it’s hundreds and hundreds of miles from Lake Town on my map, there are dark tidings indeed, as the place is crawling with orcs and worse. The orcs unleash the bats of war, which to me look distressingly like the Wicked Witch of the West’s battalion of flying monkeys.
- Also at Mount Gundabad, Legolas and Tauriel watch what the orcs are up to, and it’s not good. The orcs are ready to march on the Lonely Mountain, and they’ve decided they can’t use the same super highway that the elves apparently took. Instead, they enlist the help of some giant wormlike tunnel diggers borrowed from the set of Dune, because their preferred route is underground.
- If things aren’t bad enough, now an elf army led by King Thranduil, who’s riding the demon spawn of a reindeer-moose mating (see photo above), arrives at the Lonely Mountain, also demanding a cut of the treasure.
- Thorin is besieged, but there’s help on the horizon as his kinsman Dain arrives riding a war pig. I wonder why Tolkien didn’t think of that. Dain, a red-bearded Scotsman-Dwarf who’s king of the Iron Hills, is leading an army of armored dwarves with bad attitudes.
- The Dune worms finish their tunneling and burst onto the scene, causing the men, dwarves and elves to forget their differences. Battle ensues, with Azog the albino orc calling the shots from a hastily erected semaphore station.
- The orcs are bad enough, but they’ve brought along a platoon of trolls that are really kicking some elf-dwarf-man ass. It looks like it’s all over, but Thorin popped a Tylenol, causing his Dragon Fever to break, and now he leads his ragtag Dirty Dozen into the fray, and that somehow turns the tide. After fighting to the side of Dain, Thorin leaps onto a mountain goat, and along with a few of his friends, leads an attack on the semaphore station. Gandalf observes this heroic action from somewhere else on the battlefield and says that Thorin’s going to “cut off the head of the snake.” Legolas and Tauriel join the jolly tussle on the icy slopes of the semaphore station, and we’re again treated to more of Legolas’ ninja-elf moves. That Legolas is one spry son-of-a-bitch.
- Meanwhile, Radagast the Brown has thankfully abandoned his jackrabbit sleigh and mobilized the Middle Earth Air Force. He arrives riding one of the eagles, and along with the help of Beorn — launched by one of the eagles as sort of a bearlike cruise missile — the day is saved.
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Time now for the blaming. I’ll always be grateful to Peter Jackson, because he did bring The Lord of the Rings trilogy to the big screen, and for the most part, I thought it was on the money. The Hobbit, however, simply strayed too far from the book, and I blame that on corporate greed, trying to turn what should have been one movie (or at the most, two) into three major productions.
I also blame it on a society that can’t be bothered to read. I think Jackson found it necessary to tie together his Lord of the Rings trilogy with the Hobbit trilogy for those non-readers who wouldn’t understand any of it without the inclusion of extra characters and forced links. Maybe some of those brainless morons will buy the video games that are sure to include a lot of the fighting scenes and other claptrap. Bottom line: I blame Twitter for this nonsense!
Me, I’ll probably buy the DVD when it comes out, just so I can say that I own the entire collection.
Do I recommend this movie? Yes, but only because if you’re a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, it’s probably the last time any of it will be in a movie theater, and it does provide a sense of closure. And in this case, closure is a good thing.
I’ll leave you with this YouTube video. It’s not new, but if you haven’t seen it before, it’s worth a viewing: