There are several joke subtitles I had thought of for this movie: The Hobbit: And You Thought Pelennor Fields Was Long… or The Hobbit: Thank Christopher Jackson Won’t Get The Silmarillion. That second one in unfair, though. Jackson’s vision for Middle Earth has been very good. He has the determination to do it right, not just to his view (which is respectful of Tolkien) but the experts’ and fans’ views. He also has the skill (and the crews with the skills) to pull it off.
I still think The Hobbit will make a good movie, a supercut of the theatrical releases that follow Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves, cutting out the background stuff that adds to the epic but makes Bilbo Baggins feel like an extra in his own movie. I am also still looking for the extended editions, which I will watch in the only way that makes sense for me to watch them now: As a mini-series. The Extended Editions of LOTR make a great six-day mini-series event.
Anyway, this movie in particular was much better than I expected. At two hours twenty-some-odd-minutes, it is tight, for a Jackson Middle Earth movie. The few times it strayed from the hobbit and the dwarves, it laid a narrative foundation for the later stories and didn’t stray. We also got to see Galadriel be a badass, and that was great. Saruman fighting was great. It was like that feeling a decade ago: Yoda Fights! I didn’t expect to see Saruman open up like that.
That is really what I enjoyed the most. The Hero moments. After all, a movie is emotional manipulation, and a movie made out of a book over 70 years old that most of the world has read makes it very hard to shock the audience at a chararcters death. We know who dies. Actually, Jackson killed fewer dwarves of the company than Tolkien. I think six or seven members of the company died in the book, and only three in the movie. And they were good deaths. They were heroic. They also helped explain the characters Jackson created.
Take Tauriel. She’s not in the books. She’s stuck with Legolas but she’s not a character we knew the last time we saw Legolas, and she falls in love with a dwarf. Tolkein made a big deal about Elves and Humans falling in love in three very powerful narrative chunks. (I think it was three, maybe only two.) Elves and Dwarves? Okay. But introducing this character and her emotional journey allows Jackson to threaten a life whose fate is uncertain. I was not sure she was going to survive for a few minutes, and those were good minutes.
Thorin, Kili, Fili? Yeah, they had to die. Thorin was spectacular, and got his farewell which was wonderful.
But earlier in the movie, too, did we see great hero moments and death scenes. Bard and his son (another Jackson creation) pulled off a great kill, and Smaug’s death was wonderful. It was beautiful. It set up the idea that Great Deeds would be Done in this movie. And it was just this chapter’s prologue.
I’m glad we finally went to see it.