Okay, you’re in for a treat. I binged on the plane and watched Hobbit movies until I could feel my shoes beginning to tighten. Oh, no, that’s just my feet swelling from the low pressure. No hair on my toes yet, anyway.
The Hobbit ends before the Lord of the Rings begins, but as far as cinematology (is that a word?) is concerned, this trilogy goes one step farther. And New Zealand got the longest travelogue any country ever so richly deserved. Plus wonderful animation, great characters, and the fight scenes? More on that later.
I have to say, the most interesting part of the story for me was the orcs. In the Rings trilogy, orcs are mindless semi-animals in fantastical armour, trudging along and slavering over the idea of killing people. In this story (with no help from Tolkein) two orcs are the villains. Oh, yes, and one dwarf.
Thorin Okenshield spirals wonderfully into madness, courtesy of Richard Armitage, although I thought his return to sanity didn’t get enough frames to balance the character out. His death is rather a sideline, compared to the battle on the ice between Kili and Azog, the head orc. In fact, I found Azog grew on me as the film progressed. Some of the final closeups of his face revealed him to be almost handsome!
Most fans are aware of the other liberties taken with the novel, creating a starcrossed love plotline between an elf and a hobbit (“He really is the tallest of them all, isn’t he?”) which worked out rather well, I thought.
On the topic of animation, Smaug and Golem win the choreography contest, with the fight scenes in general taking the top prize. I am certain that Peter Jackson is aware that he has exhausted all the straightforward isn’t-this-an-amazing-dance fighting that we see so much of. To go beyond this stage, he inserts twists and irony, sometimes poking fun at himself. For example, there are several times when he goes so far, so obviously, that I found myself laughing out loud. Decapitation becomes a running gag. You know how the directors of 3-D movies like to startle you with sudden swipes into the theatre? I have to say it’s been a long time since I was watching a film and I physically ducked. And I was looking at a 20-centimetre airline back-of-the-seat screen!
I’m sure it won’t spoil it for anyone to tell you that the fighting of the elves is more magical than anyone else’s. They dance through their choreography, contrasting beautifully with the clumsy brute strength of the dwarves and the orcs (whom I often couldn’t tell apart in the battle scenes). The crowning glory is Legolas, in the middle of a falling bridge, jumping up the avalanche from stone to stone as if they were ice floes on a vertical river. Yep, you ain’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.
And while I don’t recommend sitting down and watching them all in a row, well…I did read the book at one sitting, and felt pretty much the same at the end. Which is high praise for a movie. Five stars out of five.