22 December 2014

There And Back Again

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Is it just me or is the saying “It's always in the last place you look” the most annoying phrase ever. Obviously it's in the last place I'll fucking look! I'm hardly going to continue the search for something once it's already turned up am I? At this point in the Hobbit franchise, the Dwarves have made it to the mountain having woken the resident dragon up and told him to move his scaly arse. Their leader Thorin also appears to be going mad which could be due to the magical power of his gold or simply because he can't find a great big shiny stone. If I can't find my keys then I start smashing the shit out of the house in search of them, and so I think stomping around a mountain and threatening to banish all of your closest friends from your kingdom is more than reasonable behaviour. Anyway, because the dragon has buggered off, a bunch of freaks have decided that they also want to claim some of the gold it was guarding. As a result of this, five separate armies square-off at the foot of the mountain like a particularly well organised gang of looters. Oh and for the record, I wouldn't bother seeing this movie if you haven't seen the other two as it's basically just the last third of one massive story. Without the context of the previous movies I think you could easily confuse these battles between beautiful male elves and beefy skinhead Orcs as being like a riot in the Gay Capital of Brighton. It's not.

Okay, so a good way to pre-empt your opinion on this movie is clearly to just ask yourself how much you liked the previous movies. If you've hated the journey so far then this is just more of the same really. There's no twist ending that will put what's gone before under a new light for you. Thorin doesn't start walking with less of a limp and reveal that he'd read the entire plot off the wall of a cave. Bilbo doesn't end up being burnt alive in a giant Wicker Man as the dwarves prance about in frocks in an attempt to grow some peach trees. Nor does Gollum look into a mirror and see that he's tattooed his chest with the phrase “John G raped and murdered my ring”. Having said that if you did like the first couple of movies then there's a good chance that this is for you. It's got spectacular effects, exciting battles and inventive looking monsters. What more could you want? Well a little more focus on character would be nice, but fuck it- I guess we can't have it all! Once again Bilbo gets mostly lost in the crowd and we still haven't gotten to know half of the dwarves. I know that Thorin is a pretentious twat but what of Bombur? For those of you waiting for that fat one to open his mouth and reveal a comedic Silent Bob-esque monologue will be left disappointed. Is Bombur the Dwarven saint of kindness or just a fat, arrogant, pisshead? Well, he does look like Gerard Depardieu and so I'm inclined to believe the latter but I guess at this point we'll never know.   

Now that this new trilogy has been completed, there's absolutely no doubt that it will forever be in the shadow of the more superior Lord Of The Rings trilogy. However I've personally loved every second of every single one of them. From a critical point of view, they are riddled with pacing issues but I don't care. I love the world of Middle Earth and am more than happy to spend as much time there as a cinema ticket will allow me to. Sure, this one lacks the heart and sexually-charged chemistry of Sam and Frodo's relationship, but on the flipside it also has a tiny Billy Connelly headbutting the fuck out of an army of Orcs. What's not love about that? Perhaps too the problem was that Peter Jackson also suffers from a reluctance to leave this world. Now that it is over, I think there's really no reason why the story couldn't have been crammed into just two or maybe even one movie. This film starts with the dragon puking fire all over a nearby town in what would clearly have been better as a conclusion to the previous film. It's like starting The Empire Strikes Back with the destruction of the Death Star before cracking on with all of the Tauntaun killing and incest that we love that film for. 

Although, speaking of Star Wars, I would say that this Hobbit trilogy is vastly superior to George Lucas' prequel bullshit. In fact, one of the joys of this film in particular is seeing all the subtle ways in which Jackson has decided to connect it to The Lord Of The Rings. When Saruman announces that he'll go and deal with Sauron, you almost want to scream at the screen like it's a fucking pantomime. This might sound cheesy but it comes after a pretty epic fight in which the ninety-two year old Christopher Lee full-on lays the smack down on some ghost monsters. I mean I know that due to his age it was more likely to have been performed by a stunt double than the man himself... unless they strung him up and played him like a wrinkled marionette I suppose. But either way, it was cool and possibly one of my favourite moments in the franchise. The conclusion to this film was also a particularly great moment in my opinion and perfectly ties all of the movies together. Not only does it link back to the first few moments of the first film but it also perfectly leads onto the first few moments of The Fellowship Of The Ring. It was also incredibly touching for me as I found myself fighting back tears during the final few lines. Although now that I'm twenty-six, I'm well aware that I'm getting old and that this could have been the effects of some sort of unexpected male menopause. 

As for the event of the Battle of the Five Armies itself, I suppose it was pretty epic. In no way did it get anywhere near the heights of genius that was the battle of Helm's Deep. However I was never in any way bored and at the very worst you can't say that what we saw wasn't original. Dwarves trotting up rock-faces whilst riding massive goats and an Elf skewering bad guys on his mounted moose's horns. This might be based on a book from the 1930's that was written by an English University Professor but in many ways it feels much more like material from the mind of the director of Bad Taste. Purists will I'm sure be put off by this but being the heathen that I am, I'm much more a fan of  Jackson's deranged imagination. I understand that the book is more important to pop-culture but there's something about Jackson's style that appeals to the younger me that refuses to move out of my brain. Whether it be the living, farting, intestines in Braindead, the giant dick monsters in King Kong or his obsession with decapitation, here there is a gruey element to Jackson's style that I can't help but be entertained by. 

Although having said that I suppose there were a couple of moments in which perhaps Jackson may have missed a trick. Do you remember that Bear guy from the last film? Well he shows up during the battle in a fairly heroic moment in which it looks like things are going to get pretty exciting. He's dropped from the sky and I was expecting things to go fucking mental like a deleted scene from Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man. Orcs being torn to pieces as their girlfriends are helpless in the face of chaos, murder and hostility. Sadly that doesn't happen and the were-bear just sort of gets lost in the crowd. Maybe his actions were too violent to show or maybe he just wandered off to have a piss up a tree... I guess that's for you to decide! The same also goes for Radagast who barely even registers here. Considering how well he was set up in the first movie you'd expect him to have some sort of conclusion. I mean, why wasn't he in The Lord Of The Rings? I was hoping that would be explained but apparently not. I guess somebody must have finally given him a mirror and so he just spent the entirety of Sauron's return pulling chunks of bird shit out of his hair. At the very least there did seem to be some sort of conclusion to the weird romance between that dwarf and the elf but nobody seemed to mention that their love is essentially bestiality.

Which brings me to my final point... At what point in our society did we decide it was acceptable to depict dwarves as being a separate species from humans? Middle-Earth is made up of Men, Elves, Dwarves and hang on... go back a few... Men and Dwarves? Why aren't the Dwarves covered under the heading of Men? Is that because the inhabitants of this land are massively heightist or because we are supposed to accept that they are actually different. In which case why is that okay? Dwarfism is an actual condition in real life? Do real dwarves not feel offended by this distinction? I suppose Warwick Davis can't complain seems as it's kept him in work for thirty-years but still. The dwarves here aren't even played by real dwarves in this film! You couldn't have a race of monsters called the Down's Syndromes so why is it okay to pick on the little guys instead? Not only that but the way they're depicted is a little on dodgy side too. Tolkien himself was quoted as saying, “The dwarves of course are quite obviously, wouldn't you say that in many ways they remind you of the Jews?”. Maybe writing about some stubborn, gold obsessed cave-dwellers and then equating them to the Jewish people was accepted back his day but not so much anymore. Jackson doesn't really do anything to highlight this beyond depicting the Dwarves as Tolkien wrote them although the large prosthetic noses might have been a mistake. I mean, just looking at a picture of Ken Stott's Balin is like looking at a Rabbi through the eyes of a racist. 

Anyway, if you liked the first few films and can get past the issues regarding a few anti-climaxes, the pacing, the lack of any first or second acts, the racism, the dwarf discrimination and the comparisons to a much superior trilogy then there's still a lot to love. I loved it anyway. I suppose that like Star Wars, these will become classic family movies that geeks look forward to one day showing their children and there's no doubt that watching this will be like giving a kid crack. As well as this, I do honestly believe that despite how little the title character might be focused on at times, Martin Freeman's performance as Bilbo is the most impressive of all six films. Sure you could argue that having also played Arther Dent, Freeman is being typecast as mild mannered, quint, characters from British literature that are forced on adventures and love nothing more than their dressing gown and cups of tea... But you know... He's clearly good at it. Plus as a mild mannered, quint, English character who loves nothing more than a cup of tea I can definitely relate to this. The only difference between me and Bilbo is that had those dwarves arrived in my Hobbit hole I wouldn't have gone on an adventure with them. I'd have called the fucking police! People will bitch and moan because that's what people do but considering the one thin book was stretched out into three epic movies, I honestly don't think we could expect much more than this. Anyway, thanks for reading and see you next time motherfuckers!

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