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The Lord of the Rings
#91
Time to follow up a re-watch of the LotR trilogy, with a re-watch of the Hobbit...

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
No wonder Peter Jackson was prepared to arrange production on The Hobbit around Martin Freeman's other commitments because it's difficult to imagine anybody more perfect as Bilbo Baggins. Every little nervous hand gesture and facial tick brings the character to life without him needing to speak a word of Tolkien's dialogue. It's a shame he's too often overshadowed by lumbering spectacle, too many characters and a wildly inconsistent tone. The comedy songs, fart jokes, Ori's lisp and pathetic slingshot, Nori being a kleptomaniac, Bifur having an axe in his head and Radagast's f**king rabbit sleigh were stupid elements that derailed the movie. The attempt to give all 13 Dwarves their own distinct personalities, weapons, silhouettes, skill-sets, hairdos and moments to "shine" just ends up with them often being a confused, cacophonous, annoying and very silly group. To me, only Balin, Dwalin and Gloin actually look like my conception of traditional Dwarf warriors (the way Gimli absolutely did in LotR). Making Thorin initially distrust and dislike Bilbo, then for him to respect the Hobbit because of his deeds was a decent idea for their character arcs across this movie, in theory but it wasn't followed up on in the next two films. Ian McKellen is once again perfect as Gandalf. His speech about "ordinary folk" is as powerful as anything in LotR. This time I noticed Jackson has framed him against the rising sun, so it appears Gandalf has a halo. It's moments like that where Jackson still shows his craft as a filmmaker, when he's not getting lost in his CGI sandbox. There is a noticeable crispness and artistry to the FX shots in AUJ, that the two sequels lacked. I suspect they were just in less of a rush to hit deadlines in this first phase of post-production. AUJ has some truly epic helicopter shots of our heroes marching over the tops of New Zealand's mountains, set to Howard Shore's music. It's that location filming in NZ which can make these movies feel grounded and this trilogy doesn't have enough of that. 'An Unexpected Journey' is an enjoyable adventure overall but it's no 'The Fellowship of the Ring'.

(FYI: I watched my own "Entirely Respectable" fanedit but the review is my feelings about the original cut)

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#92
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
'The Desolation of Smaug' is the weakest and longest of the Hobbit trilogy, much like it's characters, it's lost and uncertain of where to go. Unfortunately when faced with a lack of direction in his story, Peter Jackson tries to paper over it with tons of CGI nonsense, fight scenes, overblown emotions and ill-judged humour. There's also the feeling of some sections being a Frankenstein creation, stitching together the pieces of when this was supposed to be two films. There's that scene when the company first meet Bard that looks like it was hastily shot by an intern against a green screen on the morning the film was released, with the actors doing their own hair and makeup. There's that terrible unfinished looking gold statue FX too. If PJ had directed his energies (and the film's budget) into finessing character moments and story structure, instead of into inventing the exhausting, ridiculous and pointless 20-minute forge sequence (or the over elaborate barrel ride), he might've ended up with a more successful film. The company petulantly giving up at the hidden door, Bombur turning into a whirling barrel tank and the misjudged humour between the Master and Alfrid were all low points. That's not to say I don't enjoy the film, it's got many plus points too. Tauriel's a great new character and her "starlight" theme music is one of the best pieces Howard Shore wrote for the trilogy. All the business involving Gandalf, Radagast and Sauron is pretty damned epic.  It's nice to have Orlando Bloom back as Legolas because he's got some awesome fight moves. Luke Evans makes a striking and likeable hero as Bard the Bowman. Martin Freeman continues to be wonderful as Bilbo.  Some of the little comic gestures he makes, like when Bilbo is left alone after the barrel escape are worth the re-watch alone.

(FYI: Again, I watched my own "Entirely Respectable" fanedit but the review is my feelings about the original cut)

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#93
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
The Hobbit trilogy didn't turn out as well as 'The Lord of the Rings', so this final part felt like a bit of an obligation on the viewer, rather than a finale you'd really looked forward to seeing. Still I thought it was perhaps the best of the three. It doesn't have the tonal inconsistencies of the first film and it doesn't have the wobbly sensation that Peter Jackson and the writers were flailing around trying to figure out where the hell the story focus should be like in the middle chapter. You can tell that Jackson is reveling in the opportunity to play with his $300 million box of toy soldiers. It's testament to his skills as a filmmaker that he makes what is mostly a big long battle constantly entertaining, filling the screen with visual imagination and spectacle. I'd compare it to the accomplishment of George Miller's movie-long chase in 'Mad Max: Fury Road', although of course I'm not comparing the overall quality of the two films. Sure Jackson succumbed to some of the same CGI brain rot as George Lucas but to compare the two Directors is madness. Look no further than the visual symbolism he employs when the armored Dwarves march between Bilbo and Thorin as the former is trying to argue the latter out of going to war, or the scene where Bilbo and Gandalf just sit in total silence exchanging glances but no words, yet the meaning is so clear. Jackson also shows the same command of editing and direction he demonstrated in the battle of Helm's Deep. Despite thousands of CGI creatures flying everywhere, you always know exactly where his characters are, what their goals are and understand the stakes of the fight.

(FYI: Once again I watched my own "Entirely Respectable" fanedit but the review are my feelings about the original cut)

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