By Charly SHELTON
To go “There and Back Again” is quite a long journey. Walking from the green rolling hills of Hobbiton in The Shire, over and underneath the Misty Mountains, through the mind altering suppression of Mirkwood, across the Lake, over the Desolation of Smaug and finally coming to The Lonely Mountain only to have to fight a fire breathing dragon and, if you survive that, the journey back is just as perilous. That is quite a journey that would take some time.
But it’s not nearly as long as writer/director Peter Jackson’s final film in “The Hobbit” trilogy feels. What took J.R.R. Tolkein, a very wordy author who loves to delve deep into explanation and backstory (similar to Dickens), 41 pages to accomplish, it takes Jackson 2 hours and 24 minutes. And that is before the inevitable extended cut. To top that, the second film ended with a huge cliffhanger of the dragon flying off to wreak havoc. The resolution to that is rather short and then we start a different story. It’s like ending “Star Wars: A New Hope” when Luke fires the photon torpedo at the Death Star. Then the next film is 2 and a half hours of “It’s a hit!” and “kaboom!” and the throne room march. So this film is “The Hobbit: The Throne Room Scene.”
Now let me preface this by saying that “The Hobbit” is one of my favorite books, one that I try to read at least once a year. I loved “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy of films and I was so excited when Jackson returned to do “The Hobbit” film, which turned into two films, which turned into three films. The book is only 216 pages. So I thought he would really stick exactly to the book and not have to cut anything out. He has time to explain the menace of the goblin hordes, the history of the Necromancer, where exactly Gandalf goes when he just leaves without a reason, the extended battles of Moria and Azanulbizar, and the fall of the line of Durin among much else. (I know, my nerd is showing. This is about the time when my girlfriend tells me that I need to be quiet.) Suffice it to say, I was very excited for these movies.
Yes, he showed the backstory of the Necromancer and explained where Gandalf went. We kind of got to see the battle of Moria and heard reference to ending the line of Durin. The first two movies were very well done. Smaug surpassed everything I could have dreamed of in awesomeness and perfection. But then at the end of the second film, there was this really weird climax scene with a golden dwarf (that was not in the book at all and didn’t make sense with the way the mythos and reputation of Smaug was set up) and that put me off the film a bit. With the third and final film, “Battle of Five Armies,” I was looking for Jackson to redeem himself for the golden dwarf. It stayed close to the original story for the most part with some changes here and there but the important plot points and devices remained relatively intact. But with 41 pages of plot points to hit, that left him a lot of time to do other stuff that just bogged down the rest of the picture. These include the dwarf/elf love subplot, Legolas’ hurt feelings over a despondent father never coming to grips with the passing of his wife, a big ice lake battle where old grudges are settled, a ridiculous amount of CGI on everything from faces to body movements to a stone tower falling across a chasm and slowly crumbling away as the fight rages over it with arrows flying and knocking away more rocks which the hero climbs, in midair, as they are crumbling from beneath him. I am all for awesome battles and whatnot but this was just stupid. The whole thing could have been shortened by an hour at least and we, the audience, would have been happy for it.
Overall, he didn’t redeem himself from the golden dwarf so just strap in and hang on as Jackson skids in for a crash landing on his trilogy with all the wackiness of “Indiana Jones 4” and the speed of “Braveheart” on horse tranquilizers. What started as a great adaptation of a beloved classic ends as a “Saturday Night Live” sketch with a few nice references to this book called “The Hobbit” peppered in along the way.
Rated PG-13, I give this movie 2 out of 5 stars, and that is generous. If you have two and a half hours to spare, don’t bother seeing this movie- just watch the first one and then read the book for the rest.