I have been a huge fan of middle-earth for the majority of my life. I started off with The Hobbit when I was in Primary School, I’ve seen The Lord of the Rings so many times I’ve lost count, and I’ve recently started reading the books once again. So with the world premier of The Battle of the Five Armies earlier this week, it is apparent that the end is upon us. For the first time since I was 10 years old, there will be no more Hobbits or Rings of Power at the cinema, and come what may, I won’t be the only person in the audience who will be sad when it’s all over.
But now is not the time for nostalgia, because we begin with a problem. The Hobbit franchise was fighting an uphill battle from the off, which meant when its filming was announced, it was greeted with apprehension. This is simply due to the looming shadow which was cast by the epic success that was The Lord of the Rings trilogy. These are a fantastic set of films and are unlikely to bettered: though I’m sure someone will try in years to come. But the reason they have caused an issue with The Hobbit trilogy, is exactly that, they’ve turned it into a trilogy. Through our expectations, (and the producers’ eye for profit), this short children’s book has been turned into three films when two would have sufficed.
This means that The Hobbit would always run the risk of being “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread”. So, was this the case, or have they proved the sceptics wrong?
Well, the Dwarves are annoying, as they should be; and at times it does feel like a compromise between being faithful to the book and incorporating the style of the LOTR films. My main issue with An Unexpected Journey however, is not this, but with the amount of running away. I actually (and slightly lamely I admit) chuckled to myself in the cinema at the amount there is. Why? Because after a while I ceased to hear Ian McKellen shouting “RUN!” but Graham Chapman in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail shouting “RUNAWAY!”. Obviously not the intended effect by Peter Jackson, but there you are.
More so than this the Goblin King really irritated me. I can only assume he was done this way for the benefit of younger audiences: but I found him monumentally lame. Goblins are supposed to be foul, wretched creatures which we all despise: so why they thought some rotund, useless sack of **** would make an appropriate king is beyond me. The only way he could have been less threatening is if he wore a Wham t-shirt.
Thankfully though, this section is interwoven with my favourite part of the film: where Bilbo finds the ring, and engages in a battle of wits and riddles with Gollum. The scene is great, and I was glad they gave it the focus and screen-time it deserves. And then, there’s the end. I really like the way Smaug is handled and that we don’t get to see him properly until the next film. This may seem like an obvious way to entice people, but lesser Directors would perhaps not have chosen this route.
But as you come away satisfied that the film made for entertaining viewing, the niggling doubt of the butter/bread metaphor still remains in the back of your mind. Parts of it were a bit contrived and never lived up to The Lord of the Rings; but then this was to be expected and so isn’t such an issue. It’s a tricky one. You don’t really know where they’re going to go next.
Ultimately though, I enjoyed it. And doubt is replaced with excitement, because really, we do know where they will go next: toward the Lonely Mountain and the Desolation of Smaug.