6 January 2015

As of 20 December 2014, I joined the ranks of those who could proudly wear a t-shirt with the "I survived BOFA" inscription. Many tears were shed, priorities were re-checked and all hope was lost. Not sure if that qualifies as proper surviving though...

Much has been speculated, many endings envisioned... Like some dedicated fans have said, this version that we saw on screens was probably the best possible for a story that was, sadly, rather carelessly written by master Tolkien (all made worse by the film team's efforts to make it more mature and more fitting to LOTR - therefore more tragic for the audience). I'm not meaning to be disrespectful to the author. It's just that The Hobbit as a book was not intended as a piece of writing for adults, nor was it meant as a prequel to The Lord of the Rings. It became so only much later. The difference was huge and, when this book had to be filmed, they had an almost impossible task to deal with.

Did I like it as a work of art? Oh yes! Did I find anything to criticise? Sure, but that was too little in comparison to all the things I applauded. The 'sins' of this 3rd installemnt can be easily counted as below:
  • poorly inserted comic moments (I know there is a rule of breaking tension or tragic moments with a comic relief, but it didn't work here. Yes, I'm looking at Alfrid.)
  • subplots and story moments that were important to the theatrical version but were left for the EE
  • too much fight scenes with Legolas, for the sole purpose of pleasing his fans
  • rushing events and leaving too much to the EE.
Generally, there was this obvious struggle of having to please both the old fans of the Elves and the new ones, of the Dwarves. I understand it was a tough thing to do, both sides demanded to be pleased. As for the often-mentioned 'rushed pace' of the film, it's the whining viewers to blame. Honestly, I have no idea why they were even cared for. they were the ones to complain about the length of the two films (and no real fan would ever want less of what he loves!) and now I bet it's the same ones that whine about how it's been cut too short.

Let's go on to the juicy part now... although it's hard to have any positive attitude when it comes to a film that's grabbing your heart and tearing it to pieces, a film that's built the most lovable characters for you, only to have them mercilessly killed by deadly weapons in the end.

Success Is Counted in Tears

Well, we can look in a different way at it, though.
Tragic as it may be, it succeeded in drawing many tears in every theatre around the globe. For weeks during the screenings (and even weeks before), pretty much every Hobbit-related social media comment would mention tissues for the tears. That is another definition of success - to make people cry at your show. Congrats for that! I bow down to those who managed to give Thorin Oakenshield a heroic death and who made those plot twists that clearly showed who was more of a villain and provided some ways of evolving (Thranduil being metaphorically slapped for his bitchy-ness and then admitting his parenting failure - Yes, thank you!)

Shakespeare comparisons

This is not your average fantasy/medieval/hero production. This is something far deeper and complex. Don't get fooled by its popularity and take it for an action flick set in mythical times. A psychologist would find a lot of delight in this film, especially in seeing what exactly is happening to Thorin and to his friends in close connection to him. The 'madness' is so realistically portrayed! Richard Armitage knew so well what he was doing there. He can act with even the smallest muscles on his face. He can show you one emotion, then go to its opposite in a split second. These quick changes are impressive and what's even more impressive is that they are real - they really happen so when one is affected in that way. There is no exaggeration about that.

Thorin here is a deeply troubled character, a king with a burden. Consumed with his duty feeling of protecting the treasure and facing the reprimand of others, as well as the hostile armies at his gate, he goes through a personal inferno and comes out of it on his own. He's brave beyond measure, fair in his dealings with the enemies, stoic, caring and truly warm to those whom he cares about... and really takes on the role of a magnificent, legendary warrior king. It was pleasing to see that even those bitter, usually overly critical reviewers have said grand words about his interpretation and compared his drama to that of Shakespearean kings.

Bilbo. Martin Freeman. Damn, he can act!

His acting is superb here. I don't know who was responsible with writing his final lines next to a dying Thorin, but that person should be probably banned somehow... My apologies, but that makes me burst into tears whenever I think of it! "The eagles are coming... Thorin... the eagles are coming", all said in a cracking voice, so innocently, like a child hanging on to the smallest hope... No, that was too much. That was premeditated murder of thousands of sensible fans.

Some voices informed that the scene we're talking here was mostly spontaneous and the actors never really rehearsed it. If this is truly the case, it's hats off again...

The one scene that's worth all the gold in Erebor. And then some.

Is there anything more touching than the Bilbo-Thorin scene? For me, it is. And it's touching in a most positive way. Thorin charging for battle. There, I said it. As he comes out of Erebor followed by his loyal Dwarves, with Dain shouting enthusiastically "To the king, to the king!", I can't help but feel shivers from head to toes. It makes me ecstatic. It's beyond goosebumps. The cinematography is excellent, it builds anticipation in a stunning way. Just watch as the huge bell smashes the gate and the camera goes backwards... yet you can't see a thing coming out of the mountain, but you expect it, and seconds later they appear, running full speed but in slow motion. Fabulous! That's the one scene that gets me every time, that seems the best of the entire movie... of the trilogy... of maybe of all 6 movies?

I'm usually judging my films based on my first reaction to them. Nevertheless, I'm surely paying attention to how my feelings change with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th viewing... and this battle charge hasn't changed a bit. 100% success. I just want to install a big screen on a wall of my room to play that scene in a loop. I need it in my life.

Pleased with the fan service

Of course, some basic needs couldn't be left out! A sure fan favourite is Thorin's majesty being completed by a most majestic battle mountain goat (or battle ram, as is frequently encountered). apart from this, it was vastly enjoyed that Kili finally learnt to smoulder majestically, like his uncle. Not only that, but he actually breaks into some serious anger there, shouting about how he's not going to let others fight their battles for them. Then comes that sweet Thorin and Kili family moment. Precious! Dwarf fans like me also got a generous share of fun and joy as Dain was allowed to mock Elf king Thranduil by calling him a 'woodland sprite' (it gets a satisfied smirk from me every time). Another moment of similar intensity (but of a very different tone) was when brave Tauriel confronted the same elf king and called him loveless.

No Tauriel hate, really. Her presence is essential, she gets to oppose characters and attitudes that are so negative. I can't describe how happy I am to see someone facing Thranduil and wording out his biggest flaws. Also, she's one to show that the Dwarves are cared for, that they can conquer and melt hearts, which is important for this film. Ultimately, she is the voice of the fandom. "Because it was real" speaks volumes about who we are and how we feel as fans... and why it hurts to see BOFA. That may be an overly simple dialogue, but she's right. Too right.

Further thanks to Howard Shore for extending some of his best musical themes.


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