Last Tuesday, I paid one of my very rare visits to a cinema. I went to see a midnight showing of The Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies, in 3D no less. It was a somewhat surreal experience; I think that with the possible exception of three others, I was the oldest person present. The majority seemed to be in their late teens or of student age. There were also two people in full costume; one dressed as Gandalf, and one dressed as Bilbo. Unfortunately, the Dutch are, on average, a tall race, and this Bilbo was no exception. He towered over me, which rather ruined the Hobbit effect. However, to give him credit, he really was barefoot, which in December in the Netherlands is rather a brave thing to attempt. And I was pleased to see that Gandalf removed his large hat when seated in the cinema.
TH-TBOTFA is the third film in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, and come last Tuesday, I hadn’t actually seen the second part (The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug). However, I made the pilgrimage because I wanted to see it in 3D, and the cinema in Winterswijk, although bijou, and with slightly tired decor, has good sound and a decent screen.
So, was it worth it? Well, my answer would be a slightly qualified yes. It’s visually spectacular, partly down to the beauty of the New Zealand locations, and partly down to the wizardry of CGI and set design that produces locations that feel real and lived in. The acting is good, and in some cases excellent. And the eponymous battle is epic. However, I didn’t feel that it reached the intensity of visual spectacle that Jackson achieved with the Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Lord of the Rings – the Two Towers. There is humour in the film, almost slapstick in places, and this does serve to lighten the mix. I did like it though, and I will certainly get it when Jackson releases the inevitable Extended Version in Bluray format sometime in 2015.
Speaking of which, the Bluray format of the Extended Version of the second film in the trilogy landed in our letterbox on Thursday, so I have now seen all three films, albeit in the wrong order. Of course, this filmic version of The Hobbit is not the book. There are new characters introduced, or those, who in the book flit past in an instant, who have their characters greatly inflated in the film. Tolkien purists hate this, but personally, I accept that the film is not the book. I do think that Jackson and his co-writers, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro, have captured the essence of Middle Earth.
With the release of TH-TBOTFA, my seventeen hour sojourn in Middle Earth has been completed. I’ve already revisited it several times since the journey began 13 years ago, and no doubt I will continue to do so, because Jackson’s vision is a compelling one. And I will also continue to reread the source material, because it too has fired my imagination.