Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Hobbit - Why they had to make them

So my dear friend Cinemartian is taking part in a Middle-Earth marathon right now and if I hadn’t been to one last month, I’d be so jealous. Instead I have to read people on the internet hating on the Hobbit films, and it’s annoying as fuck. So I decided to go ahead and finish up this post in defence of the Hobbit trilogy. And yes, Hobbit-haters, I'm splitting it into three parts.

A lot of people on the internet (and I’m not talking about reviewers, I mean people on the internet) have levelled a lot of criticism against the Hobbit films. Some of it’s warranted, a lot of it isn’t. Critics have been a lot more positive towards them, with each of them being above 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. Personally I’ve liked all of them, not only for the opportunity to revisit Middle-Earth, but also because I genuinely think that they are very good movies.
The most important thing to get out of the way is the unfairness of comparing these movies to “The Lord of the Rings”. The Rings trilogy are some of the greatest movies ever and all one can ask of the “Hobbit” trilogy is that they deliver something that is worthy of the original trilogy, something that justifies making these movies, just like the “Star Wars” prequels didn’t. Because of this, I want to start by giving you a short list of things that these movies did that enriches what the Middle-Earth saga was before. I’ll try to respond to some of the more specific points of criticism next time.

Riddles in the dark
Technically the pivotal moment of the whole trilogy, chilling out at the beginning of the third act. The one ring passes to Bilbo and he becomes the ring-bearer, later passing it on to Frodo, starting the defining chapter of the third age of Middle-Earth, the war for the ring.
This is one of two scenes where it’s not even debatable, this is on the level of the original trilogy. It brings back Gollum, the most amazing character from the original trilogy, once again portrayed perfectly by Andy Serkis. Freeman and Serkis play off of each other perfectly and despite the action fuelled scenes that follow, Bilbo and Gollum playing a high-stakes game of riddles is the emotional climax of the film.

Don’t wake a sleeping dragon
For two movies, we had to wait to finally see Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug, the last great fire-drake of Middle-Earth, and let’s just say, it’s intense. Once again, the actual, action-filled climax is preceded by an amazing battle of wits (something that most action films don’t find necessary these days) as Bilbo tries to find the Arkenstone and accidentally wakes the dragon, even though Balin specifically told him not to do that. What follows is a little hobbit playing for time, trying to escape and carry out his mission at the same time.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
I’m on record saying that I find Martin Freeman’s performance to be one of the best in the complete Middle-Earth saga. Bilbo Baggins is one of the most interesting characters in Middle-Earth and throughout these movies, they even managed to enrich the character.
Bilbo has a multi-layered emotional arc. He is away from home, on an adventure for the first time and has to find his courage. Also, he tries to earn the respect of the dwarves and we as an audience see the influence of the ring.
The movies have found this wonderful way into the relationship between Bilbo and the dwarves through Bilbo’s love for his home. For this, some key scenes have been added, like Bilbo’s conversation with Dwalin when he is thinking about quitting the company. (Which is something you can bet I will bring up when I’m addressing the whole 3-movies-question)

So these are just three aspects of the prequel trilogy that I was very happy to see. I truly believe that it would have been a crying shame had we never got to see these things play out on the big screen. Things that make these films not only good movies, but also worthy parts of the Middle-Earth saga. These are also part of the reason why I think that ten years from now, nobody is going to care that they made the prequels into three parts, 48 fps and that they had the audacity to earn any money from them, those dirty cash-grabbers. The simple fact is that all three films have been good. They are not masterpieces, but they are great adventure movies, always entertaining and made with care and love.

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