MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Warner Brothers
Directed by Peter Jackson. Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman.
Director Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings will be remembered as one of the great film trilogies; the fantasy world that he created from the books of J.R.R. Tolkien will live on as a masterpiece of cinema. The follow-up film trilogy that he created from The Hobbit, Tolkien’s modest 275-page book prelude to TLOTR, is not in the same league in storytelling or characters, but it still manages to entertain in spite of its excesses.
Since this is part three of the story, it might seem necessary that the viewer watch 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and 2013’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (both reviews are in the archive) before going on the trip, but there is frankly so little story in this chapter, most neophytes should be able to get on board without too many problems.
Here’s the main story (without spoilers): When the film begins, Smaug the dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch) is destroying the village of Lake-town with his fiery breath. Elsewhere, inside the Lonely Mountain, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the dwarf king, is guarding the dragon’s treasure of gold and slowly becoming corrupted with greed. Eventually five armies (Dwarves, Orcs, Elves, Humans, and Eagles) will battle one another to get to that gold. And, through it all, Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) will take a stand for friendship and loyalty while secretly possessing the One Ring that started the story rolling in the first film and will play a major role in the next trilogy.
There’s a romantic subplot and a comic villain (both brought in as add-ons to the basic story), but the movie is basically a 140-minute 3D special effects event, with about an hour or so dedicated to the final battle. It’s a good film.
This movie is the shortest film in the trilogy and seems the most assuredly paced, with enough going on to be consistently engaging. Martin Freeman is a great Bilbo, a quiet peace-loving Hobbit who slowly develops courage under fire, and Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, the wise and benevolent wizard who is Bilbo’s advisor and friend.
Tolkien was a devout Catholic, and his fantasies depict such Christian themes as sacrifice, sin and redemption, and faith that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5 NRSV)
I hope that fans of the films will take the time to read Tolkien’s books. If you have, you know that Tolkien was not a great fan of warfare. The books actually serve as a meditation of sorts on World War II, that Great War that brought its own kind of fire and terror on the people of Great Britain. C. S. Lewis would also touch upon the same themes in his Narnia books. How I wish that we were living in a time when such moral reflection about sin and redemption could be taken seriously.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings become friends of many middle-school children who receive the books on Christmas Day. The world and inhabitants of Middle Earth are depicted with such vivid brushstrokes that his characters become friends in the reader’s imagination for a lifetime. May we continue to spend time with the forces of good and give God thanks for the one who first showed us that triumphant hope: Jesus Christ our Lord.
Three halos: An entertaining conclusion to a film trilogy, with something good to say about friendship and loyalty.
Two pitchforks: For a lot of fantasy violence including stabbings and beheadings in battle; greed.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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