Sunday, November 22

The Hobbit Trilogy -- A Look Back...

Just as autumn is waning, so ushers in the end of an era: our journeys to Middle-earth will conclude. With the release of the director’s cut of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, third and final installation in The Hobbit series, we shall no more trip lightly upon the rolling hills of the Shire, rest our weary heads in Rivendell, or battle fire-breathing dragons in the Lonely Mountain. But, thanks to DVD, we can always revisit those lands – as a fond memory of Tolkien’s masterful works set respectfully to film by Sir Peter Jackson. The extended editions of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies are highly recommended because they provide additional context to the source material. Gaps in the storyline are addressed to tie up any loose ends the theatrical releases left to the viewers to string together. Now, let’s reminisce about The Hobbit, parts one through three – for not all those who wander are lost….

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. 2012.

A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on an "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug. [IMDb] 

Nicole: OK, Cassidy, so I know you don’t go in for this sorta thing. You’re not a big geek like me. 

elizabeth: Would you please go outside and stare at the big round ball in the sky for ten minutes? I don’t see the appeal of men looking like they haven’t bathe since the days of the Black Plague.  And I think Smaug was my boss at my last two jobs. 

Nicole: That's quite possible, but I digress... Let’s first talk casting. I cannot think of another actor that could have played hobbit Bilbo Baggins better. Martin Freeman is inspired – he fits seamlessly into the cast. It’s perfectly believable that he’s the younger Baggins (whom we see played by Ian Holm in this film, as well as the Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy). He handled the role with finesse, humor, and acuity. Ian McKellen is back as Gandalf the Grey, a role he’s played so many years now it fits him like a glove. And, Richard Armitage as heir-apparent dwarf Thorin Oakenshield is the right amount of moody, betrayed, and fierce warrior. And, let’s not forget Andy Serkis as Gollum – perfecting creepy on a whole new level. The cast is HUGE and I could go on for days, but I’ll leave it there.

elizabeth: Did you say something? 

Nicole: Ignoring you. Now, on to the script. If I had to argue about anything, it would be that I felt they concentrated on some scenes too long, whilst others got little attention. That could be because I’m a whore for elves and really was looking forward to more time spent in Rivendell. I did want to see more of Bilbo’s impression and interaction…but I’ll take what I can get.  

elizabeth: “A whore for elves” – is that on your resume? 

Nicole: In fact, yes, it is. Still ignoring you. Special effects – scenes like the warring Mountain Giants -- I was fully clenched the entire time. TMI? If you’re a Tolkien fan, a Jackson fan or just a geeky nerd – invest in seeing this movie and making the commitment to see it through to conclusion. ‘Cause the journey is well-worth the effort. 

elizabeth: You mean I have to wait to call you a whore for elves again? Seems so unfair.

 Nicole: I think you'll manage. 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. 2013.

The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring. [IMDb]  

Nicole: Look, I’m biased. I’m incapable of being critical in any way shape or form. I know some Tolkein purists have pick with Jackson’s interpretation of the source material. I’m going out on a limb here and saying Tolkein’s works are different. It would be impossible to faithfully reproduce every detail in his works. That being said, Jackson’s vision is absolutely mesmerizing. I trust every decision he makes, because he has the best possible motives. OK, I’ve blown enough sunshine up Jackson’s ass. (Peter, make the check out to CASH.) 

elizabeth: Now seeing sunshine blowing up Peter Jackson’s ass might be a movie I would want to see. I take that back. I don’t like movies that are dependent on out of this world special effects or Jackson’s butt.  Call me a movie snob. Go ahead. 

Nicole: Snob. So, where does this installment find our quest-harried dwarves, hobbit and wizard? Knee-deep in Middle-Earth, that’s where. Fighting off evil bands of Orcs and giant Mirkwood spiders, being imprisoned by Sylvan Elf King Thranduil (played to absolute perfection by Lee Pace), slipping into Lake-town on their way to the Lonely Mountain to do battle with Smaug, the dragon who guards the dwarves’ treasure and the Arkenstone. Got that so far, Cassidy.

elizabeth: Orcs, Mirkwood , Smaug, Bilbo and Thranduil – are these the top  baby names for  boys this year?  What happened to names like Bob, Dr. Dre and Ralph? 

Nicole: Those names aren’t en vogue. Let’s talk about performances. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo is absolutely genius this time around—from the simplicity of his gestures to his building bravery, this was a role he was born to play. Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield is compelling. His is a complicated character we’re never quite sure to love or hate, but either way—you stand behind him, because he’s that convincing. 

elizabeth: Time to make the donuts. 

Nicole: I see you’re positively riveted, but I continue nonetheless. Enough can’t be said about Jackson’s WETA team. From special effects, to costuming, to set dressing – this movie is a feast for the eyes. Just wait till you get a load of Smaug (brilliantly voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). 

elizabeth: Please get out of Middle-Earth and join the rest of us. And you can bring your new friends Thorin Oakenshield and Tauriel. I am sure they are in need of hot shower or two. I’ll bring the soap. 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. 2014.

Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the terrifying Smaug from acquiring a kingdom of treasure and obliterating all of Middle-Earth. [IMDb] 

Nicole: Well, it is true that all journeys must come to an end...and so must it be with the final installment of The Hobbit trilogy. 

elizabeth:  I felt my heart just break ever so …who am I kidding? So the tale of the little men with big ears is over? Why don’t you all go out and visit a mall? 

Nicole: Ignoring you. The film picks up right where The Desolation of Smaug left off, with Smaug wreaking havoc on Lake-town and the Erebor dwarves searching for the Arkenstone. Their leader, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), has succumbed to the dragon sickness, which spurns his blood lust for wealth, greed and hatred. Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Saruman (Christopher Lee) defend Gandalf (Ian McKellan) against the Necromancer (aka Sauron) at Dol Guldur. The Mirkwood elves, led by Thrandruil (Lee Pace), learn of the dwarves' success in taking back the Lonely Mountain and arrive in Erebor to reclaim the treasure that was taken from them generations prior. And, let's not forget, that an army of vicious Orcs, led by Azog (Manu Bennett) are preparing to end the line of Durin and take over Middle-Earth. Still with me? Elizabeth! Wake up! 

elizabeth: I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow. I have all the symptoms of that dragon sickness. Dammit, I just lost another scale. 

Nicole: I knew you had something; I just couldn't put my finger on it. While the name of the movie is The Hobbit, this installment very much belongs to one character: Thorin Oakenshield.  Martin Freeman's Bilbo, however, still does steal many a scene with his display of loyalty and bravery -- not to mention his endearing mannerisms. Luke Evans' Bard is also strong, rising from mere bargeman to dragon slayer to leader. 

elizabeth:  After watching him on Saturday Night Live, I have been under the false impression that those were Martin Freeman’s real ears.  

Nicole: *rolling eyes* Alluding to its title, you can guess this movie is mostly about war. Lest that scare anyone away, Jackson cleverly handles the staging of the battles by focusing on the main characters, switching between locations and introducing eye-popping visuals. Believe me, you won't be bored and it won't seem like, pardon the pun, overkill. And, while the conclusion is highly emotional, it's both fitting and satisfying. 

elizabeth: Did you see bright colors and have the sensation of floating during your flashbacks?

Nicole: No, but I saw BOFTA in IMAX 3D, which I normally shy away from -- as I have a tendency to vomit from 3D-induced motion sickness. It's utterly immersive and all-encompassing; rich with so much detail you won't want to blink.  

elizabeth:  Might I make a  suggestion? If you suffer from motion sickness then maybe request that Jackson’s next movie have a cast of hand puppets. 

Nicole: He's been there and done that. Ultimately, though, it's about the story and bringing it to a justifiable end. Purists will argue about the focus given to non-Hobbit characters like Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lily), but Jackson and his writers Philipa Boyens and Fran Walsh handle their inclusion creatively and with respect to the source material. 

elizabeth: What the hell are you talking about? Seriously, I do think some of the 3D and digital special effects take away from us using our imagination. Don’t show me everything and please don’t put it in my face. I can imagine. I do have that power. Take that, Bilbo. 

Nicole: *sigh* I almost don't want to end this post, because it will mean having to say goodbye to Middle-Earth...and frankly, I'll never be ready to do that. But, rationally, I know that due to the rights issues over Tolkien's works, this is very likely the last time Jackson will visit, allow me a moment to thank him and his wonderful team for giving us a glimpse into a world that we'd never have known but for our own imaginations. 

elizabeth: Have we met? What have you done to Nicole? Oh, that’s right. You are now renting a 2 bedroom apartment.  42 Geek Ave., Apt. 3D, Middle-Earth. Can you get pizza delivered there?

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