MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Warner Brothers
Directed by Peter Jackson. Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman
As readers of my reviews over the years have noted, I am a bit of a Lord of the Rings fanboy and prone to give even the weakest movies in this series the benefit of the doubt.
This episode, though, is perhaps the slightest film so far, taking over two and a half hours to cover six chapters in the original novel. And, without giving away anything, not much happens. The hobbits, elves, and their entourage have to get from point A to point B in order to reclaim a treasure stolen by a dragon. And, by film’s end, there is still more work to do.
How does a simple story become such a long thrill ride? Well, for starters, Writer-director Peter Jackson brings back a favorite character from The Lord of the Rings films who is not even mentioned in the book – Legolas (Orlando Bloom), the Elven archer. Jackson also invents a character on his own, the female Elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), who is an awesome shooter in her own right. But, as the story moves towards a more inclusive world of girl power, Jackson introduces a corny romantic subplot. One step forward, two steps back.
Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) is still the star of the show, carrying in his pocket the One Ring – and the power to make himself invisible whenever he slips it onto his finger. The ring has other powers that can corrupt the owner, but these are pushed into the background this time. Wizard Gandalf (McKellen) provides moral support and occasional gravitas to this fanciful story. And when we finally meet the dragon Smaug (voiced and motion captured by Benedict Cumberbatch), he is pretty impressive.
Author J.R.R. Tolkien intended this prequel to The Lord of the Rings to be a children’s adventure. It’s a quick read for early readers – like the first Harry Potter book – and designed to whet their appetite for the darker and more engaging fantasy world to explore in the LOTR trilogy. Peter Jackson does this little book quite a disservice by stretching things out so long. Imagine going to see the story of The Three Little Pigs done as a three-part-film series in which each house gets its own movie and every pig gets to dialogue with the wolf for about twenty minutes before he blows their house down. Yep, it’s something like that.
This movie was filmed using High Frame Rate (or HFR) 3D cameras and this technology is something to see. The colors are brighter and the depth of the image is amazing. More screens have the HFR prints this year; I encourage you to pay attention to the theater listings and see it in this format if possible. Some viewers object to this process, saying that it makes the CGI animation look cheesy. In my humble opinion, CGI always looks cheesy, so I will take this cheddar over your American.
One last note: There is much killing in this film, excused by making the bad guys spiders and Orcs. I don’t mean to get all PC on you, but after about the 30th death in a movie, I begin to draw the line, especially when the deaths take place during a three-minute sequence.
Two halos: An entertaining but overlong and relatively non-eventful midpoint for The Hobbit saga, with nothing much to say.
Three pitchforks: For sustained violence and killing throughout most of the action sequences.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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