The Hobbit (2012 - 2014)
Directed By: Peter Jackson Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Manu Bennett, Sylvester McCoy, Billy Connolly, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis
Certificate: 15 Running Time: Approx 474 minutes
I am often asked what my favourite film of all time is. There are many contenders, but my answer lies with a series that has had a bigger emotional impact on me than any other. And that's what films are all about, right? Making you feel stuff, whether that's joy, sadness, fear, anger, or simply making your heart fill up like a balloon (to quote another of my favourite films) for no apparent reason. That's what happens when I watch The Lord of the Rings. I don't just sit there gawping at the TV - I actually feel invested in the adventure; in the characters, even the 'evil' ones. So, as I often find myself saying, if I'm allowed to choose a trilogy as my favourite 'film', it would have to be that one. Imagine how ecstatic I felt, therefore, to hear a few years back that we would have the chance to return to Middle Earth in the form of a new trilogy which was on the way too!
Well, when I say 'new', that's not strictly true I guess, for this second trilogy would be an adaptation of Tolkien's earlier work, The Hobbit, which of course saw 'the most famousest of hobbits', Bilbo Baggins, tricked by Gandalf into partaking in a grand adventure to the Lonely Mountain. Explaining to us beforehand by way of his book we saw in LOTR, this mountain, also known as Erebor, once housed a great Dwarvish kingdom. During their most prosperous era, they stored their immense riches within the mountain while Dale, a city-state of Men, also thrived nearby.
That was until a foul dragon called Smaug arrived. Attracted by the gold and gems as apparently dragons are, he destroyed Dale and ousted the Dwarves from their stony halls, taking up residence, and it's there he remains to the present day. Well, present day in the film of course, which is still some years prior to the events of LOTR. It is at this time a company of Dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield, determined to reclaim his birthright as King of the Lonely Mountain, sets out to slay Smaug and rebuild his people's lost kingdom, and he wants Bilbo's help.
An Unexpected Journey (2012)
The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
Although lightning can strike the same place twice, the odds of it actually happening are minuscule, and so is the case here. The Lord of the Rings was an amazing - but also rare - success. As a trilogy it was nearly perfect, benefiting from exceptional direction and production, stunning sets and costumes, ground-breaking effects work and masterful acting, and even a little luck with the fantastic chemistry between the well-chosen cast, all in addition to the gripping story written some 50 years earlier.
The latter point also applies to The Hobbit of course, the production values are as flawless as ever, and special mention must go to the casting of Martin Freeman who is perfect as younger Bilbo, but it just doesn't have that same magic. Some blame the story itself. The stakes are certainly not as high as they were in LOTR - how could they be? - but most blame the decision to split it into three parts as opposed to the planned two. I initially applauded this decision - the more time we get to spend with the wonders of Middle Earth the better, surely? But perhaps it would've been better as a two-parter, or even one (long) standalone film.
I suppose it's a bit pointless to ponder what can't be changed though, and the fact is, The Hobbit, as a trilogy, is far from a disaster. Expecting it to live up to LOTR was always going to be asking too much, and even if nothing else, it's always great to visit Middle Earth again. Revisiting some of the old characters and locations really is wonderful, like seeing old friends again for the first time in years, and it's also great to meet some new characters and see new locations too. The films might have failed to live up to most of our lofty expectations for the most part but they are still very enjoyable to watch too, and I'm sure I'll return to them again some day.