I wasn’t totally enamored with The Hobbit Trilogy in my initial viewings and the extended versions didn’t really change my mind, so the same issues remain although I can still appreciate some of the technical aspects at least.
The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy
Genre(s): Fantasy, Adventure
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment | NR – 0 min. – $89.99 | December 1, 2020
Date Published: 11/30/2020 | Author: The Movieman
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.
Note: The screen captures were taken from the Blu-ray disc and do not represent the 4K Ultra HD transfer.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) — 3.0/5
The film begins with a rather lengthy narration by the old Bilbo Baggins (IAN HOLM) as he sets to write a new chapter in his memoir telling a story Frodo (ELIJAH WOOD making a cameo) knows about. After some flashback sequences outlaying the crux of the story, we learn the narration takes place before the opening of Fellowship of the Ring with Frodo leaving Bilbo’s home to lie underneath a tree. It then transitions from Old Bilbo to Young Bilbo (MARTIN FREEMAN) as he encounters Gandalf (IAN MCKELLEN) for the first time in a long time. The meet is odd with Gandalf recalling how Bilbo was an adventurer and wishes to enlist him to be the final member of a dangerous quest, but Bilbo flatly refuses.
Gandalf leaves but not before placing a mark on the door which leads to numerous guests who enter Bilbo’s home: Dwarves Dwalin (GRAHAM MCTAVISH), Balin (KEN STOTT), Bifur (WILLIAM KIRCHER), Bofur (JAMES NESBITT), Bombur (STEPHEN HUNTER), Fili (DEAN O’GORMAN), Kili (AIDAN TURNER), Oin (JOHN CALLEN), Gloin (PETER HAMBLETON), Nori (JED BROPHY), Dori (MARK HADLOW), Ori (ADAM BROWN), would-be King Thorin Oakenshield (RICHARD ARMITAGE) and eventually Gandalf. Outside of Thorin, Gandalf and, of course, Bilbo, are completely forgettable and mostly interchangeable.
After initial hesitation, Bilbo accepts being the 14th member of the quest as the “burglar” (stealthy member of the group) although as the leader, Thorin is none to impressed as Bilbo’s inclusion was at the behest of Gandalf. Still the group is off making the long journey to the Lonely Mountain and for the dwarves to reclaim their home. As you now notice, this is the first problem with the movie. Where in Fellowship the stakes are much higher as the quest is to take a powerful ring to Mount Doom through treacherous lands with everybody along the way, including friends, wanting the ring for themselves.
In any case, the quest continues on as they later encounter some “interesting” characters such as trolls who have stolen three of their horses; Radagast the Brown (SYLVESTER MCCOY) on a rabbit-drawn sleigh of all things and tells a tale of some kind of evil in the forest (and a spider-like creature) he then helps the group out, who are now without any horses after they ran off during the scuffle with the trolls, after orcs come a-chasing. The elves’ arrive to save the day much to the chagrin of Thorin who hasn’t exactly had the greatest respect for them after they had turned their backs on him and his father earlier.
The group (not entirely sure what to call them), travels through caves which lead out to Rivendell which again, does not please Thorin that Gandalf had led them there. They receive much nourishment (the vegetarian kind which doesn’t sit well with dwarves) and relief while Gandalf consults with Elrond (HUGO WEAVING), Galadriel (CATE BLANCHETT) and Saruman (CHRISTOPHER LEE) as they debate the quest that receives much resistance.
Fast forward, the dwarves leave Rivendell to continue the quest to the Lonely Mountain continuing to encounter obstacles as the guest-ers (?) get captured by goblins though Bilbo manages to slip away and later, after a bit of a tumble during a fight with a goblin, runs into who else but precious himself: Gollum (ANDY SERKIS) and the pair have a freestyle riddle battle. During this section, Bilbo manages to get his hands on the ring…
Meanwhile, the league (?) get their asses saved once again by Gandalf and manage to escape the goblins and its ruthless king only to later, now joined by Bilbo who won the riddle-games and escape with the ring (which displeases Gollum) only to run into who I assume will be the series’ primary villain in the form of Azog (MANU BENNETT) who had killed Thorin’s father in a battle that was recounted earlier in the movie.
Oh, and those Eagles who are sentient and thus make choices but they seem to swoop in and save the day many times at, from what I recall, the request of Gandalf. This happened twice in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and once in The Hobbit. I understand the resistance to carry the burden of the ring (or Frodo carrying the ring), but doesn’t make a heck lot of sense in this case (once you see it, you’ll know what I mean).
No doubt, The Hobbit is a visual feast and with Peter Jackson’s eye, he transports viewers back to Middle-Earth via New Zealand (and soundstages) and really helps to keep the movie from being a complete waste. Staying positive, I was impressed not only with the production designs and the locations, but the costume designs is also amazing which shouldn’t come to a surprise given that presumably most of the crew from The Lord of the Rings was back for more.
On the negative side, however, this just didn’t seem to be a necessary movie. The story itself is far too simple even to fill one film let alone three which leads to too much padding and too many forgettable characters. Unforgettable Journey clocks in at around 140-minutes (sans credits) and that already was a stretch so I have to wonder what another 5.5 hours will hold.
The other problem, although perhaps it’s how the book was written and thus translated, this is far more suited for children and even though there are a couple darker scenes, there are many others which are geared more towards comedy, slapstick even, than a serious drama that Rings had.
On the whole, The Hobbit: An Unforgettable Journey isn’t a terrible movie, of course. Martin Freeman, despite knowing his character’s fate, does a good job as the title character providing some humor while Richard Armitage stands out from them all in what I consider the Viggo Mortensen slot. Armitage has the soul of this entire tale since he leads the pack (?) to reclaim his people’s homeland. Anyway, there’s plenty here to like but just as much to sort of hate, the biggest one, is the story is far too simple and spread across three movies, too much pointless filler.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) — 2.75/5
This addition opens interestingly enough with a prologue as Thorin (RICHARD ARMITAGE) enters the Prancing Pony and with shots reminiscent of the scene in Fellowship of the Ring with Frodo and the rest, he’s seemingly being followed by unscrupulous fellows before sitting at a table across from Gandalf the Grey (IAN MCKELLEN) who knows Thorin’s life is in danger and further that Thorin wants to reclaim the throne. In order to do so, Gandalf suggests gathering a team to accomplish the goal as grave danger is ahead if they should fail… or something along those lines.
We then are taken a year later are pretty much beginning where Unexpected Journey ended. Bilbo (MARTIN FREEMAN) and the merry dwarves – Balin (KEN STOTT), Dwalin (GRAHAM MCTAVISH), Bifur (WILLIAM KIRCHER), Bofur (JAMES NESBITT), Bombur (STEPHEN HUNTER), Fili (DEAN O’GORMAN), Kili (AIDAN TURNE), Oin (JOHN CALLEN), Gloin (PETER HAMBLETON), Nori (JED BROPHY), Dori (MARK HADLOW) and Ori (ADAM BROWN) – march on toward Erebor to reclaim the mountain while also having to slay the dangerous dragon, Smaug, who guards the gold in the vault.
But before they can get to Erebor they must avoid the deadly orcs on their trail first seeking refuge in the home of a wolf/giant hybrid, entering the dark forest under the control of the Elves and attacked by giant spiders in yet another callback to Lord of the Rings and then rescued, and subsequently captured, by our old stoic pal, Legolas (ORLANDO BLOOM) and the attractive and bad-ass Tauriel (EVANGELINE LILLY). As in the first film, the dwarves are taken prisoner under the orders of Elvenking Thranduil (LEE PACE) and as in the first film, are rescued by Bilbo.
Oh, and where is Gandalf during all of this? Of course he’s off on his little side-journey leading him to the hidden layer of the orcs and he eventually is in a losing duel with a being named the Necromancer (BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH although you’d be hard-pressed to know it was him) but is known by a more familiar name… I actually think this was one of the better parts of Desolation and gives that much needed gravitas and danger necessary to give the trilogy’s overall story arc more danger than some localized plot of the dwarves regaining their homeland… well, mountain anyway.
So, how does this compare with An Unexpected Journey? Well, I suppose I found more enjoyment out of this one as the action is well done and I guess I cared more about these characters, even though I couldn’t distinguish most of them from the other, and because introductions and plot outlining have been dispensed with, we get to the nitty-gritty and although the pacing was still off, the 2:30+ running time isn’t as noticeable, though it is still bloated.
On the performance front, it’s all more of the same with each actor going through the motions but making his debut in this trilogy set, Orlando Bloom is fun to see once more but doesn’t give much to his entry other than yet another call back to the better developed and more entertaining Lord of the Rings trilogy. Also, and I know I’m not the first to point this out, even though Bloom’s Legolas is supposed to be younger here than in LOTR, Bloom looks a good decade older here and it’s frankly a bit distracting.
The other notable new character is Tauriel played by Evangeline Lilly who does get something to do going on her own and has some sort of love connection with one of the dwarves. It’s hardly a meaty part considering the number of characters already in the film, but I hope she gets more to do in the third and final movie. Luke Evans makes his debut (in the theatrical version, he appeared in the extended version) and provides more background dealing with his family history and the dragon, Smaug. Nothing amazing yet, though hopefully he gets more to work with in the third installment.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug once again is co-written and directed by Peter Jackson and this entry, as with the last, proves that while there is certainly a lot of care taken from the production and art designs, visual effects and the acting, it still comes across as unnecessary, especially taking a book and instead of splitting it into two movies as originally planned, get a third thrown in which adds extra scenes that balloons the running time to the extreme, and this is just the theatrical versions, once the extended editions for all three are released, you’re talking about a 8-9 hour epic for a story that needed maybe 5 hours to tell.
Even though it’s a minor improvement over Unexpected Journey, I still didn’t enjoy Desolation very much and have a hard time imagining ever revisiting it.
In regards to how this plays compared with the other? Well, it’s more or less the same movie, just longer. As with the other one, I just had a meh kind of reaction, I sat there watching some nice craftsmanship, make-up and such but the story is still so bloated and reiterate that this entire story could’ve been wrapped up in two movies and so many extraneous plotlines could’ve been completely cut and would not be missed. Oh, and the key scene with the barrels down the river is still really dumb (and on a side note: the Amazon.com exclusive is utterly laughable).
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) — 2.5/5
The conclusion of our story begins where Desolation of Smaug left off: the fire-breathing dragon Smaug (voiced by BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH) has escaped from the Lonely Mountain, in spite of the efforts of the dwarves, and is set to wreak havoc on the townsfolk of Lake-town, literally setting it on fire, killing hundreds including the Master of Lake-town (STEPHEN FRY) as he and his kiss-ass deputy Alfrid (RYAN GAGE) try to escape with the town’s gold. Greed (gold) and war is a common theme throughout Five Armies. And a not-so-subtle theme either.
In any case, Bard (LUKE EVANS) escapes from his jail cell in creative fashion and gets to work to stop Smaug and restore his family name as his forefather failed the last go around. With the help of his son, Bard manages to take down the dragon using the Black Arrow, striking in the one vulnerable spot on its scales. With the dragon slain, Bard is soon crowned as Lake-town’s savior and his name all across the land will be known as the dragon slayer. With the dragon gone, however, the amass of riches held in the Lonely Mountain is up for grabs and the mountain itself prime real estate for the more nefarious elements including Sauron who is gathering power and, if not for Galadriel (CATE BLANCHETT), most certainly would’ve killed Gandalf (IAN MCKELLEN) whom he had captured in the last chapter.
Meanwhile, inside the Lonely Mountain, the dwarves celebrate the dragon’s demise though Thorin (RICHARD ARMITAGE) is more concerned with not only reclaiming his throne, but retrieving the Arkenstone and it is immediately apparent to Bilbo (MARTIN FREEMAN) that Thorin has gone mad with greed to the point where he will not honor the promise he made to the people of Lake-town.
Make matters worse, the Elves, headed by Thrandall (LEE PACE), wants to retrieve a priceless heirloom and willing to go to war to do so (army #1) and in spite of Bard’s best efforts, is unable to sway Thorin even after Bilbo hands over the Arkenstone to Bard as a bargaining chip. However, Thorin isn’t without reinforcements as dwarf King Dain (BILLY CONNELLY) and his troops (army #2) are willing to take on the elves. But the dwarves and elves have bigger problems as evil forces are at work when the orcs (army #3) organize an attack to take control of the Lonely Mountain while also destroying any opposing forces including the humans who have formed their own little militia (army #4). The fifth army is a flock of crows bred for one purpose: WAR! What in evil elements Middle-earth isn’t bread for war?
There’s little doubt Peter Jackson has a great eye and a passion for subject, but the issues I had with An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug remain and is magnified even more so in The Battle of the Five Armies which draws plenty of comparisons with The Two Towers yet one thing remains prevalent and why The Hobbit trilogy pales in comparison to Lord of the Rings: we don’t really have many characters to care about save for Bilbo and Gandalf though neither are in immediate danger considering we know both will survive. We are then left with the dwarves who, except for Armitage’s Thorin, are either indistinguishable from the others so when, spoiler alert, one is killed, it did not nearly have the impact Jackson and company wanted in spite of Howard Shore’s sorrowful score playing over the death.
One other problem is, present in Desolation, was shoehorning in Legolas into the trilogy. His appearance not only felt unnatural but, and this is no slight to Orlando Bloom, but he looks older and worse yet, sounds older; it was a glaring issue that I had a hard time ignoring especially when his voice went down to a near Bale/Batman growl.
The performances by the ensemble cast were OK, although I can’t say anyone stood out. Luke Evans performed valiantly as the human leader; Martin Freeman is seemingly MIA outside of a couple scenes bumped for the basically endless battle scenes; Armitage probably has the more nuanced character but what he’s given really is laughable and comes off as one-note; and as much as I like Evangeline Lilly, wow she has some bad line reads including one that’s supposed to be emotional and instead is a bit cringe-worthy and empty. You do get the LOTR regulars making cameos like Cate Blanchett who probably has the best scene of the entire Hobbit trilogy while Christopher Lee and Hugo Weaving make token appearances for the Sauron B-plot to tie into the LOTR.
As I said earlier, I can’t question Peter Jackson’s passion but it was a big mistake expanding what should have been a two-part movie into a trilogy all for the studios (Warner and MGM) to make a few more bucks as it was their final dip into the J.R.R. Tolkien well. With that in mind, The Battle of the Five Armies, in spite of impressive costumes and sets, and in some instances visual effects (others were a bit iffy), just never works on an emotional level and instead came across as a generic Hollywood action-fest.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 0/5
This 6-disc set (3 discs for the theatrical versions, 3 for the extended editions) and comes housed in a thick black HD keep case which side-slides into a study slip case. Inside is a single code for the Digital HD of all three films. No features were included, however there is a “Middle Earth” Collection set for release some time next year containing the previously released bonus features and a few new ones.
VIDEO – 4¾/5
|The Hobbit Trilogy comes to 4K Ultra HD where it’s presented in the respective original 2.40 aspect ratios. The Blu-rays already looked (and sounded) good in their own rights and they’re taken up a slight notch looking a tad sharper in comparison, colors are a little more vibrant I suppose and it does seem the natural noise and grain is more noticeable, giving it a crisp, cinema-like experience.|
AUDIO – 5/5
|Each film comes with a Dolby Atmos track which is a slight upgrade over the Blu-ray releases which had DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 tracks, so the Atmos adds a little more depth while offering a similar aural experience when it came to the dialogue. All in all, these films still sound fantastic, much like the video, you’re probably getting close to, and depending on your theater, a better experience at home (I know my local one, at least last I was there, was lackluster).|
OVERALL – 3½/5
I wasn’t totally enamored with The Hobbit Trilogy in my initial viewings and the extended versions didn’t really change my mind, so the same issues remain although I can still appreciate some of the technical aspects at least. This 4K Ultra HD set has nice housing (matching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy set) and the video/audio transfers are both well done, but with no bonus material and Middle Earth Complete Collection coming out in a year’s time, this would need to be at a reasonable price.