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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Film Comments 1, “Not at Home”)

Ian McKellan (Gandalf) & Martin Freeman (Bilbo) in Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (New Line Cinema & Warner Bros., 2014)

Ian McKellen (Gandalf) & Martin Freeman (Bilbo) in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (New Line Cinema & Warner Bros., 2014)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Film Comments 1, “Introduction”)

 J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Hobbit" (2013 version, w/art by Jemima Catlin)

J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit” (2013 version, w/art by Jemima Catlin)

Good Afternoon, Everyone, & Happy New Year!

I’ve been away for a while, but the family and I were able to see Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies over the holidays. In the next few weeks — between regular blogs on medieval literature, epic fantasy, & a forthcoming Kickstarter project — I’m going to assess this latest adaptation in much the same way as I did a year ago with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Richard Armitage (Thorin) & Martin Freeman (Bilbo)

Richard Armitage (Thorin) & Martin Freeman (Bilbo)

Out of the gate, I should let you know that I’m very partial to Jackson’s film adaptations of both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, believing that they should be viewed as he created them: a Middle Earth fan’s reverential film adaptations of epic fantasy literary works that are beloved by J.R.R. Tolkien fans worldwide.  I emphasize the distinction between film and literature to be clear about how I frame any critique of the different works. As I wrote last year when starting my 29-blog film assessment of The Hobbit: DoS:

J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Hobbit: Ch. 13, Not at Home" (illus. by Alan Lee)

J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit: Ch. 13, Not at Home” (illus. by Alan Lee)

[Begin excerpt from A.J. Carlisle’s Blog, 1.30.14 https://ajcarlisle.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/1-30-14-the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-film-comments-1/ ]: Before continuing, though, please remember two significant words, “adaptation” and “interpretation.”  In the past month, I’ve seen way too many dismayed reactions on the part of die-hard The-Hobbit-as-Book fans to the release of The-Hobbit-as-Film “Part 2’s The Desolation of Smaug.” I believe that an essential part of that outrage and/or disappointment is expressed because the reviewers forget the one truism of any film that derives its material from a book, especially when Hollywood gets involved:  you’re going to get some essentials of the source material, but never a word-for-word explication of the written text.

Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) Burns Lake Town

Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) Burns Lake Town

Smaug the Destroyer (Ted Nasmith)

Smaug the Destroyer (Ted Nasmith)

[continue excerpt]: Who’d want that, anyway?  If I want to read a book and follow the author’s intent, I go read the book and remain within the bounds of the tacit agreement I have with the creator that his or her use of language is going to fire-up my imagination (and even that agreement fails sometimes…sit in an English Lit class sometime and listen to debates that occur about authorial intent within just a written work)!  Once a book makes the jump to a completely different medium, all bets are off because completely different demands and expectations come into play.

J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Hobbit, Ch. 14: Fire and Water" (art John Howe)

J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit, Ch. 14: Fire and Water” (art John Howe)

It’s one thing for me to read [to my children] Adriana or Seth chapters of The Hobbit at bedtime each night, because by following a chapter-by-chapter narrative of Bilbo’s adventures “there and back again” we are in the same pacing and moments that Tolkien hoped and expected when he wrote the book back in the 1930s.  Should we expect that same kind of pacing and textual interaction to translate to the big screen?  Maybe, but that’s a question of personal taste.  Given some of the irritation that certain reviewers are feeling with the film versions of The Hobbit, I wonder if the Jackson’s films are being judged on their own merits, or against (my belief) some idealistic yearning for a chapter-by-chapter, line-by-line adaptation of the 1937 children’s story.  

"Bard of Lake Town" ("The Hobbit," Rankin-Bass, 1977)

“Bard of Lake Town” (“The Hobbit,” Rankin-Bass, 1977)

Bard (Luke Evans) vs. Smaug (2014)

Bard (Luke Evans) vs. Smaug (2014)

See links below for some of the accusatory fingers shakily leveled at Jackson & Co. for having dared to depart so greatly from Tolkien’s source material, but you won’t find this viewer among them.  If I want to see a “faithful” line-by-line adaptation of The Hobbit, I can always turn to the fantastic 1977 Rankin-Bass animated version! (Still holds up after all of this time…). [End excerpt] Not surprisingly, a year later in Jan. 2015, many of the same critiques levied at the first two films in this trilogy of adaptations are again cast at this last film, but we’ll get to the positive, negative, and “meh” reviews later in this blog series. For right now, check out some of the reviews on the film, and next time we’ll start with Tolkien’s actual work before seeing how Jackson & Co. adapted it! Thanks for visiting, A.J. The Hobbit Official Website http://www.thehobbit.com Link to IMDB’s full cast & credits: http://www.imdb.com/The Hobbit_Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Warner Bros. & New Line Cinema, 2014)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Warner Bros. & New Line Cinema, 2014)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Film Reviews: “Positive”:
James Dyer, Empire http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=137273
Scott Foundas, Variety http://variety.com/2014/film/reviews/film-review-the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-1201367492/
Baz Greenland, What Culture http://whatculture.com/film/the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-10-reasons-its-a-great-adaptation.php
Brendan Hodges, The Metaplex http://themetaplex.com/reviews/2014/the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-movie-review#.VLbhgcaBuwU=
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movie/hobbit-battle-five-armies/review/752865
Khusro Mumtaz, TNS http://tns.thenews.com.pk/movie-review-the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies/#.VLbkocaBuwU
Sheila O’Malley, Roger Ebert.com http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-2014
Andrew Pulver, The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/dec/01/the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-review-film-peter-jackson

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Warner Bros. & New Line Cinema, 2014)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Warner Bros. & New Line Cinema, 2014)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Film Reviews: “Mixed”:
Russell Baillie, The New Zealand Herald http://www.nzherald.co.nz/movies/news/article.cfm?c_id=200&objectid=11372636
Nicholas Barber, BBC http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20141212-is-the-final-hobbit-film-a-flop
Adam R. Holz pluggedin.com http://www.pluggedin.com/movies/intheaters/hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies.aspx
Metacritic http://www.metacritic.com/movie/the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies
Nicolas Rapold, The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/17/movies/the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies.html?_r=0

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Warner Bros. & New Line Cinema, 2014)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Warner Bros. & New Line Cinema, 2014)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Film Reviews: “Negative”:
Andrew Cunningham, arstechnica.com http://arstechnica.com/the-multiverse/2014/12/battle-of-the-five-armies-is-a-soulless-end-to-the-flawed-hobbit-trilogy/
Inkoo Kang, thewrap.com http://www.thewrap.com/the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-review-martin-freeman-ian-mckellen-cate-blanchett/
Germain Lussier, slashfilm.com http://www.slashfilm.com/hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-review/
Tim Robey, The Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/11260252/The-Hobbit-The-Battle-of-the-Five-Armies-first-look-review-begs-not-to-exist.html Screen Rant: http://screenrant.com/hobbit-battle-five-armies-reviews/
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-20141217

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