With the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies this Christmas, director Peter Jackson’s 15 year love affair with the works of Tolkien has come to end.
Now seems like the perfect time to take a look at these three latest installments from Middle Earth, and see how they have measured up to the book, the original trilogy of films, and most importantly, the expectations of the fans.
Many accused Jackson of using The Hobbit as a cash cow, milking three blockbuster films out of one book, but if you ask me, this misses the point of this latest trilogy.
The original films recreated the epic scale of the Lord of the Rings, and got away with doing it in three parts; they were already a trilogy of books after all, so nobody complained.
Sure, they could have squeezed the entire Hobbit story into two hours forty five, but think of the details they would have missed; it would have meant skipping from one scene to the next, never fully establishing the plot, and falling victim to the same mistakes as most film adaptations of novels.
Thankfully, The Hobbit is just as epic as the original films, due in part to its detail, but in equal measure to the array of acting talent on display.
The familiar faces of Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood, and the mighty Ian McKellen all help re-establish Middle Earth, albeit in an earlier era, but what surprised me most was the ease with which the new cast members integrated into the story.
In the title role, Martin Freeman creates not only a convincing Bilbo Baggins, but one with a fantastic British sensibility, keeping us amused with a stiff upper lip attitude and constant dry humour.
The standout performances however come from Luke Evans as Bard and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, who have such an important impact on the story that they seem to become the lead roles of the second and third films respectively.
What’s also interesting is that whilst watching the final film I was struck by how Jackson has succeeded in refreshing Tolkien’s post-world war influences to highlight many of our current global issues.
Battle of the Five Armies deals with greed on a formidable scale, as allied forces go to war with each other just to claim a mountain full of treasure, leading to the death of many of the film’s protagonists.
In this respect, it seems The Hobbit films have gone one step further than the original trilogy, turning a 77-year-old story into a 21st century fable.
In its onscreen form, The Hobbit has become many things: a prequel, a sequel, a trilogy and a fable.
In all of these categories, it has succeeded in retaining the essence of Tolkien’s novels, whilst engaging an audience of a completely different era.
At the conclusion of the final film, Thorin tells Bilbo, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” I’m not sure if The Hobbit can be summarised in one sentence, but if so, that’s about as close as it gets.
By Edward Lincoln