Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Haven't Seen The Last Hobbit Movie Yet. Here's Why...

Today was supposed to be the day that I gave all of you my review of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. I was going to watch it yesterday afternoon while enjoying my uncharacteristic Wednesday off, and then review it for you today. But, in case you couldn't tell from the fact that all of this is in past tense, I did not do that. I couldn't. For a number of reasons.

I mean, I physically could have, probably. I was right next door to the movie theater. I even stood in front of the ticket counter for a few minutes before walking away. It probably would have been more logical for me to see it than not see it, but I just couldn't. Or I didn't want to. Or the idea of watching this movie was so unbearable to me that I had to leave. Either way I finished up my Christmas shopping and then went home and laid on the couch watching Rehab Addict until dinner.*

So instead of actually giving you a review of the movie today, I thought I'd explain why I have no desire to see it. This is not to say that I won't see it. I probably will at some point, and it might even be in the next couple of weeks. But this is why, even though I was right there and had nothing better to do, I could not bring myself to watch the final Hobbit movie yesterday afternoon.

It's the end of an era.

You probably don't all know this, because it's a fact that massively predates this blog, but I was grandfathered into the Lord of the Rings fandom. I really had very little choice in the matter, not that I'm complaining. My parents both love the books and read them to us when we were little. The first time I heard the whole trilogy I was two. Then again when I was six, and I read them for the first time on my own when I was eight. We had a painting of Goldberry hanging on the wall in our living room. We currently have a painted tree from a set for a play production of The Hobbit hanging in our dining room. Basically my whole family are giant Lord of the Rings nerds, and I grew up with all of the stories.

We even had that terrible animated version of The Hobbit - the one where the elves were green and had German accents for some reason - and I watched it over and over as a child. These books were full of magic and mystery and epic stories and admittedly very very few female characters, but still. They were perfect fuel for an obsessive little nerd like me, and from the ages of eight to about fourteen they were my life.

I was thirteen when the first movie (Fellowship of the Ring, that is) came out, and I went to see it in theaters seven times. This is impressive not just because that's a lot of times to see a three hour movie in theaters, but also because the nearest theater showing it was half an hour's drive away, and I was thirteen. I could not drive. Let that sink in for a minute and now I hope you understand why I like my parents so much.

Our whole family was obsessed. We bought the DVDs as soon as they came out, then waited again and bought the extended editions when they came out. We sat down as a family and watched literally every single commentary and special feature on both DVD sets. I used to be able to name which stunt-people played which orcs, and so on, because I cared so much.

And this isn't even getting into how I tried to learn Elvish (Quenya, specifically), how many of my Halloween costumes were remarkably themed, and how I wore a cloak to class for two years in college because I could. I still own a veritable library of appendices, bestiaries, language guides, maps, and other tangentially related Middle-Earth miscellany. I was given a first edition of The Silmarillion for my birthday one year, and I cherish it.

Okay, so all of that is to establish that I am a huge nerd and always have been. But it's also to explain that I have had my obsessive moment with the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies, and in a very real way, I have also burned myself the hell out on them.

Like I said, I saw The Fellowship of the Ring seven times in theaters, but I only saw The Two Towers twice. And Return of the King, while great, only got me into the theaters three times. One of those times I pretty much dozed through all of the Sam and Frodo scenes on Mount Doom. By the time I graduated high school, for all that I still loved the story and had participated in Hobbit Days** and marathons in theaters and even acted out scenes in drama class, I was kind of over it. I was tired of Lord of the Rings, and ready to move on to something else.

So I did. I spent college becoming more and more interested in pop culture in general, from Buffy to Doctor Who  and Heroes to Supernatural and finally I ended up going to grad school for screenwriting because I loved it all so much. And Lord of the Rings played a very big part in all of that, but it was a part that was over. It wasn't until my early twenties that I could actually enjoy watching the movies again at all, because I'd so thoroughly worn myself out.

And then I found out that they were going to make The Hobbit into not just one, not just two, but three more movies, and I'll be honest. The reaction I had was not glee or joy or squee, it was exhaustion.

It's not that they're bad movies exactly, because they aren't. It's that something in me has changed. Maybe. I'm not the same person I was when the first Lord of the Rings movies came out, but that's not a bad thing. It just mostly means that while I can appreciate these movies for what they are, they don't hold the same emotional, gut-wrenching tug for me as the first ones.

Also, and I know that some people might not want to hear this, I'm pretty sure they're just not as good.

That's the second reason why I couldn't bring myself to watch the movie yesterday. Because, based on the previous two movies in The Hobbit series, I have a sneaking suspicion that I might not like it very much. It's not my style. It's all glam and special effects and greenscreen and CGI and not so much with the dirty, gritty feeling of the previous movies. It feels like a fairy tale, and I've never been much for fairy tales.

I know this is unecessarily poetic language, but The Hobbit never made my soul sing with joy. It's a cute story, definitely, but it's not epic like Lord of the Rings is. It's not about the battle between good and evil and the movements of kings and armies and a righteous war, it's about a bunch of greedy people arguing over some gold. And it's a perfectly fine story, but it's not nine hours worth of story, no matter how you slice it. I'm definitely not the first person to say this, but the Hobbit movies feel bloated and laggy. There is too much movie and not enough story and I just don't enjoy watching them anymore.

Now, I fully admit that all of this is coming from a person who has not finished the trilogy. That's the literal point of this article. So maybe I'll go see the movie next week with my family and I will be amazed at how wonderful it is, how moving, and I will deeply regret all of the mean things I said here. That could happen. It probably won't, though.

And yet, for all of this, the last and final reason why I didn't watch the movie yesterday is because there's still a part of me that doesn't want it to end. I mean, it's a weird part of me, because the rest is all raring to go and wants to move on with my life, but there's that happy little thirteen year old in me that will be really sad when this is over. When I watch The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, that's going to be the end. There will be no more Lord of the Rings movies to see after that.

I'm just not ready for that to happen, for all that I have been ready for a very long time.

*I really love that show. She makes the houses look so pretty!
**Where you dress up like a hobbit and watch all three extended editions back to back while eating hobbit-like food constantly. It's pretty disgusting. And very fun.


  1. I have a similar story (except in my case I am the sole family nerd!). While I love the whole story of Middle Earth, 'The Hobbit' included, it was LotR that really influenced me growing up and I think there's been a bit too much padding gone into the last three movies - the last of which I also have yet to see. I don't mind them trying to dovetail The Hobbit series with the LotR series of films, but I have a theory that if I was to get hold of copies of all three, I could edit them down into two movies without losing any of the story.

    That said, my housemate and I had a little LotR marathon a few months ago, over the course of a few evenings. She went to bed before Return of the King ended but I stayed up and sat through the credits. I realised that when the final Hobbit movie came out, it would mean that all the gaps would finally be bridged. We would have a complete record of the adult life of Bilbo Baggins, from a youth of 50 grumbling "Good Morning" at the gate, to an old hobbit of 131 muttering that he's "quite ready for another adventure". I had a little cry :)

    1. I definitely agree that the movies could be made into two movies with very little effort and probably feel a lot less laggy. And while it's cool that they're trying to get the mythology clear, it's just...discordant. Doesn't feel like they're telling a strong story, and it makes me sad.

      And yet also, aaaaaaaah that's true! We have the entire story of Bilbo Baggins and that's actually pretty great.

  2. It's all glam and special effects and greenscreen and CGI and not so much with the dirty, gritty feeling of the previous movies.

    It's got some good grief at the deaths - the first thing that came into my head constitutes a spoiler, so maybe I shouldn't post it. The devastation of Lake Town is harrowing.

    But yes... there is glam and spectacle galore. It seems, I don't know, too big for what it should be. I said once that there's no getting away from the fact that everyone watching the Hobbit trilogy will know that the most important event is two thirds of the way through film one, when Bilbo picks up the ring - everything else is a subplot, and if they can't get away from that, then they should use it. Which they have: we've been seeing the return of Sauron going on while most of the cast rattle around the mountain, and I like that.

    But I think it would have been better served by making the mountain story lower key. Don't have giants the size of mountains. Don't bring more orcs to the Battle of the Five Armies than attacked Helm's Deep (ok, I might be exaggerating there, I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure more elves turned up).
    Don't try to spectacle things up so that Smaug "fits" - have him be an out-of-context problem bigger than everything else the Dwarves or Laketowners face put together, and only defeated by an equally out-of-context solution Bard tries because he has nothing left.
    And don't have the return of Sauron be such a certainty. Leave it something Gandalf fears happened, and if he does, so do Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman.

    I have a couple of other issues; Galadriel got a couple of stonkingly powerful moments, but she didn't get to be *badass* in the way that Elrond and Saruman did. You'll see what I mean if and when you see it. And just as gratingly, Tauriel doesn't get to be very badass either; they pack a lot of needing rescue into the time she's in combat (and she should have her own bloody horse rather than riding on the back of Legolas's).

    Finally, you may find yourself rooting for the Orcs in the actual battle. They bring such a tactical A-game compared to everyone else that they really deserved the win.

    1. (My family took me to see it on Christmas so I do now have context for all of this.)

      You're very right about it feeling too big for its subject matter, and I agree that it would have played better if Gandalf et al were very rightly suspicious that Sauron was back but had no technical proof. Just because then it makes the fifty years that Gandalf lets Bilbo sit on the ring seem like outright negligence.

      Yeah, the attempts to contextualize Smaug really didn't do it for me, nor did the inclusion of a whole other army coming from Gundabad. I mean, in the original book, it's a handful of groups from each faction fighting, and there's something even more heart-wrenching and pitiful about it when everyone can only muster a small force but is still fighting so ferociously.

      I disliked the emphasis that for Galadriel to use her power is to make her immediately fall back, weak, whereas for Saruman and Elrond to do so just makes them stronger. I mean it makes sense in context, since she's using her life force or whatever, but still. And hell yes Tauriel needs her own damn horse and also for us to know what happened to her at the end.

      I love me some tactical A-game.

    2. The bit that I didn't post was that I liked Tauriel asking if this is love, why does it hurt so much, and elf cock-end guy replying because it was real.

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