Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Image via MovieWeb

Rating: 3 out of 5

Sigh…after more than a decade in the universe of Middle-earth, I’m so sad that the journey is over. However, I’m more depressed that it ended with such a disappointing finale.

In “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” there are so many loose ends to tie together: Smaug must be defeated, Lake-town must be rebuilt, and Erebor must be reclaimed. Not to mention, all the plot lines that have to be connected to bring the story full circle.

Unfortunately, the pacing was so off that you walk away without a true sense of closure. Smaug is defeated within the first 20 minutes, and the build-up to the battle seems more significant than the battle itself. When the company of dwarves loses its beloved members, the rest of the fight is simply forgotten with Bilbo ready to bail without saying goodbye. The ending of the fellowship, this sure isn’t.

Granted, it’s been forever since I’ve read the book, so I could be mistaken to call the movie’s tone inauthentically cold. Unlike “The Return of the King,” in which I bawled during the last half hour, I didn’t feel much of an emotional connection to the characters. The film was sterile, simply going through the motions.

It certainly didn’t help that the emphasis on CGI and special effects made you feel like you were watching a very long video game cut scene. All the uniqueness of the previous two films’ technical advancements felt overdone during a massive battle scene. No epic speeches to rally the troops, no panoramic shots of landscapes previously based on paintings or set miniatures, just a whole lot of computerized soldiers on a digital landscape.

While I enjoyed the character development of Thorin as he fell victim to the dragon-sickness of greed, there was little other acting of depth. Ian McKellen was reported to be so miserable from acting in front of nothing but a green scene that he thought about retiring from acting altogether. “The Return of the King” won 11 Academy Awards; I’ll be surprised if this movie wins any.

Sure, there are enough redeeming qualities to make this film enjoyable, but I’m such a die-hard Tolkien fan that I couldn’t imagine not watching this in theaters, no matter what the critics said. But I also couldn’t imagine that the final installment of this series would be so lackluster. Goodbye Middle-earth, we leave you going out not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Exactly how I feel too, Thranduil!

Top 4 Reasons Why “The Lord of the Rings” is Not Just for Kids

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy

Image via Wikipedia

When I was in high school, my favorite English teacher told me that you should mention only the best literature on the SAT and AP tests. I completely agreed, but for her, that meant that The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien did not count. In fact, she called the series “juvenile fiction.” I know–*gasp* is right!  LOTR is a literary masterpiece, and not only in the fantasy genre. Most magazines and critics even consider it among the greatest books of all time!

Note: Even though LOTR is three novels, I, like Tolkien himself, consider them one story. So I will mostly refer to it in the singular, just FYI.

So to prove her wrong, [and to celebrate buying my tickets today to the LOTR concert in Fresno!!!] here are my top 4 reasons why LOTR is not just “juvenile fiction:”

  1. It’s quite a hefty read. Clocking in at over 1,000 pages, LOTR often reads more like a history textbook than an adventure novel. You have to be able to stomach long lineages and extremely thorough time-lines in order to appreciate the book. And since Tolkien was, first and foremost, a linguist, get used to fully functional languages, names like Galadriel and Uruk-hai, and antiquated diction (plenty of thee’s and thou’s!). But what do you expect from Tolkien, who began writing at 45 and didn’t finish until he was 57? That’s 12 years of extensive world creation!
  2. Realistic, morally conflicted characters. When I think of children’s books, I think of Captain Underpants and The Boxcar Children. Character archetypes + basic, not too difficult obstacles + moral lesson at end. But I think LOTR is more complicated than that. Gandalf is a good-hearted mentor, but he’s not immune to the Ring’s corruption. Gollum’s out to murder Frodo and Sam, but he’s also a victim worthy of pity. Sure, LOTR can be simplified to a tale of good vs evil, but no character is purely one or the other.
  3. Abundance of violence. Of course, violence can exist in children’s books to some extent, but usually it doesn’t consist of a father trying to burn his son while still alive or biting someone’s finger off for a piece of jewelry. Every character plays a role in the wars of Middle-Earth, regardless of gender or size (unlike in Chronicles of Narnia, which usually excluded the girls). And even other children’s books with excessive violence, such as Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, are not meant for the really young and are just as appealing to adults.
  4. Lots of pints and pipeweed. What can I say? Hobbits sure know how to party!
          So what do you think? Is LOTR just kid’s stuff? Is it worth reading as an adult, even studying in school? Let me know what you’d add to the list!
          I’m now counting down the days ’til I watch “The Fellowship of the Ring” in concert!!!