When Peter Jackson sought to finally put The Hobbit on the big screen he initially planned on making one movie, which then quickly turned into two as he sought the opportunity to make it link up with his epic The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. After production began for some time he was then approached by the suits at Warner Bros. with the plan of turning it into a trilogy. Peter was then faced with several daunting tasks, starting with changing where the first movie was to end (originally with how the second movie ended), having to pad the movies to make them feature length, and then having to re-think the final installment so that any padding that took place in the first two films will be reflected in the third (see my reviews for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)
If there is any flaw with this movie, it is because of this padding.
While this movie is called “The Hobbit”, it should be called “The Trials Of Thorin Oakenshield” (played magnificently by Richard Armitage) because this is about this dwarf who would be King under the Mountain, the gold fever he is possessed by, his madness driving him to find the King’s Jewel, and lastly, his thirst for vengeance regarding Azog The Defiler. This was one of two plot points in the movie that I found myself feeling conflicted. On one hand, there is part of me that wished for a more purist take on what happens to Azog (his demise came at the hands of Dáin II). Then again, we are given a detailed accounting as to what Azog did to Thorin’s grandfather Thror, I found myself wanting Thorin to exact his revenge on Azog. While the final battle between these two characters is not in the book at all, what we get is something enormously satisfying, and yet tragic, as Azog still manages to deliver a mortal wound to Thorin before Azog himself is killed, and perhaps it is best this way. The book doesn’t show Thorin receiving his deathblow, and while his passing in the book was nonetheless sad, for a film it would be necessary to give his death a more heroic touch, and that is best served by having him kill his mortal enemy.
Another possibly controversial part of this movie is the storyline of Gandalf The Grey (masterfully played as always by Sir Ian McKellan) and his imprisonment at Dol Goldur. While his imprisonment and rescue is referred to in other source material, it is not actually seen in the book of this movie. Jackson, probably seeking to find another way to tie the Necromancer to Sauron, gives us that connection, as well as showing the power of the White Council as Saruman (Christopher Lee), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) come to his rescue and battle against the souls who would become the Nine Black Riders. Again, while this is not told in the book, it is referred to elsewhere which gives Jackson the means to flesh out this part of the story and allows him to show the dark power that resides within Galadriel, as well as the beginnings of Saruman’s temptation and eventual downfall. Some may take issue with this, but I found it worked because it allows Gandalf the means to arrive just prior to the final battle with the necessary information that brings about the alliance between dwarves, elves, and men, against the variety of Orcs.
There is one part of this story on the screen that took me out of the movie watching experience. No, it is not the addition of Tauriel the Elf. I did have a problem with her added presence in the second film, but her scenes here were actually quite touching, especially in regards to Kili the dwarf.
No, my objection was the use of something that was deemed largely mythological by Middle-Earth standards, and that was the presence of were-worms; beasts that allowed for the Gundabad Orcs to quickly make their way to Erebor. While the were-worms are mentioned in the book of The Hobbit, they are enlarged for the sake of the movie to the point that when they make their appearance I thought I was looking at sand worms from Frank Herbert’s Dune. This literally yanked me out of the film for a good minute. While the book does make use of the Gundabad Orcs, having the were-worms here clearly show how they were able to get from Angmar to Erebor so quickly. The use of the worms may have been to move the narrative along, but I’m still not sure how I feel about seeing these mythical beasts.
Despite these few issues, what Jackson has crafted still is a work of art. While the first movie was filled with bright and rich colors, signifying the excitement of this new journey, the second film was grey, which helped to communicate the despair that is present throughout the movie, especially when we see Laketown. This final movie is no different in that there is an icy whiteness to the color palate. We are told that winter is coming to that part of Middle-Earth. While that may be true for the sake of the story, having these wintery conditions also helps to show the icy coldness that resides in the greedy hearts of both Thorin and Thranduil (Lee Pace), the King of the Woodland Elves. It is this type of filmmaking that helps to make this an enjoyable movie to watch.
This final movie did have an affect on me, much the same way as The Return Of The King broke my heart by movie’s end. There were tears at the death of Thorin, and Bilbo’s grief was clearly shared with anyone watching this movie.
The ending is a bit abrupt. It doesn’t fully resolve as the end of The Return Of The King did for moviegoers, but perhaps it is because this isn’t the end. Just as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens with events just before the beginning of the story in The Fellowship Of The Ring, the closing moments tie directly in to the earliest scenes of that first The Lord Of The Rings film, thus bringing the viewer full circle. Clearly this is Jackson’s way of saying that we should not look at these sets of movies as two different trilogies, rather as a complete 6-part story.
While I loved the first of The Hobbit movies, the second one left me disappointed. However, Jackson was able to redeem himself with this final installment, and give us a fun movie that delivered where it needed to most, despite the flaws previously mentioned. Such was my enjoyment that the 2 hours and 24 minutes of this movie swiftly passed after which the house lights came back on. I didn’t love it as much as I did the first film, but I most definitely liked it a lot better than the second movie, and that was satisfying enough for me.