Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies hit movie theaters last Wednesday, December 17th. It is the third and final film of Jackson's second Middle Earth trilogy. I was excited enough to attend a screening the night before the release date and drag my girlfriend (who isn't a Tolkien fan) along while touring Chattanooga.
It was a truly bittersweet experience. Eleven years ago in 2003, I felt the same sadness when the credits rolled to the Return of the King. I didn't want it to end, but fellow Tolkien fans and I were comforted by the possibility of a Hobbit film. So in the near decade that followed, I frequently checked on the rumors. At times I lost hope: there were breakdowns in negotiation, filming postponed, directors dropping out, among other things. But eventually, things worked out and in the holiday seasons from December 2012 to December 2014, we went to Middle Earth and back again. Would we ever return?
#elfie @EvangelineLilly #OrlandoBloom @TheHobbitMovie pic.twitter.com/LTFslvEW1c
— Lee Pace (@leepace) December 1, 2014
The latest trilogy failed to garner the same critical response from the LOTR series but remains commercially successful. But, Tolkien purists have gripes:
- Too cartoon-ish. This was a common complaint after the first movie: The Unexpected Journey, aimed at Radagast's character and the dwarven dinner scene at Bag End.
- Tauriel? Evangeline Lilly's female warrior-elf character was not present in Tolkien's work yet comprised the other half of a weak love story.
- Legolas. Orlando Bloom reprises his role from the LOTR trilogy, the deft warrior-elf, deadly with bow. He wasn't mentioned in the Hobbit either. However, Thranduil (his father) was, so it's conceivable that he was present but not mentioned in the book.
- Reliance on CGI - Jackson falls more in love with CGI with every movie.
As an unapologetic fan of Tolkien's works since age 11, I was simply happy to see Middle Earth back in the cinema. In fact, I saw the first movie twice in theaters, despite the cartoon-ish, childish feel, because I expected it: The Hobbit book was far more light-hearted than the fellowship series and was aimed towards a younger audience. The "good" races of Middle Earth didn't face annihilation. But by the second movie, which premiered in December 2013, Middle Earth had completely captured my imagination again.
I was also a fan of the casting: I get to crush on Evangeline Lilly for the first time since Lost wrapped up in 2010, Orlando Bloom for sentimental reasons and the dynamic duo from BBC's Sherlock - Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Peter Jackson had the artistic freedom to include/exclude significant characters from his first series. So the creation of Tauriel and the presence of Legolas were welcome to me - although the Tolkien purists probably hate it.
So what's next? Is this truly the last time we visit Middle Earth? Under the guidance of Peter Jackson, apparently yes. However, I still cling on to a sliver of hope, much like Frodo did. JRR Tolkien wrote a comprehensive history of Arda - the planet where this adventure takes place. Middle Earth is but a continent. The series of stories are chronicled in the Silmarillion. His son Christopher released some of his unpublished works such as the Children of Hurin and Unfinished Tales: The History of Middle-Earth. Unfortunately, Tolkien's estate retain rights to his posthumous work and Jackson seems fairly uninterested in filming the Silmarillion.
As Aragorn said, "there's always hope." And I will cling onto that in the years that follow. You can say they are precious to me. I always get an air of nostalgia everytime I see them on screen. Furthermore, I've played numerous LOTR themed video games because I can't get enough of it. So here's to hoping and I am grateful to Peter Jackson and company for taking me there and back again, one last time.