Friday, December 19, 2014
An Obsession with Epic
At first, people were fine with small movies. Things didn't have to be great and grand, as long as they told a good story. Then movies like Star Wars came along. Everyone realized just how big, how grand films could become. Filmmakers could show entire planets explode and a whole new universe of possibilities entered into their minds. Problem was that people didn't just take this new realm and tell good stories. That's too risky. Instead, it was easier to copy things people already liked. Thus, we ended up with Star Wars ripoffs; a few good, original ideas; and book adaptations. That's how we got the Lord of the Rings movies.
The first trilogy of movies was good. It took the story of the books and transferred its themes to the screen. There were minor changes, which some hate and some like, but overall the films were well received. Then came the Hobbit trilogy. The problem with the Hobbit (the book) is that it was written before the Lord of the Rings. It's not so much a prequel as a fairy-tale, with little of the darkness and grand scope of the follow books. However, since the Lord of the Rings movies are already out, people expect a similar production from the Hobbit.
Thus the filmmakers are left with a tough decision. Do they make the Hobbit like the book: a lighter, smaller, more 'fun' story? Or do they make what everyone is expecting: a huge, epic tale of armies and rings and sorcery? The filmmakers chose to do what they thought they could pull off: a Lord of the Rings prequel, rather than a direct Hobbit-to-screen transfer.
With that preamble, how does that tie me into the movie I am actually reviewing? Well, I feel that the problem with the movie was exactly that: it was too epic. There were too many orcs, too many elves, too many narrow escapes and explosions. Some I liked, but when I backed up and looked around, I was stuck wondering: why aren't they all dead? If this were real life they'd all be dead.
Of course, I thought the same thing about the Lord of the Rings movies. I wondered how everyone survived even though thousands of others didn't, given that most of the main characters put themselves in the most dangerous parts of battle. Still, when you look at the scale of the attacks (at Helm's Deep, Saruman sent 10,000 orcs), and see Gimli and Legolas fighting over which slew 42 orcs, the odds don't seem so impossible. But when you see the hundreds of orcs each character would have had to slay in the Hobbit movies, it all feels a little too fantastical.
That's what I didn't like. What did I like? I felt that the portrayal of the dragon-sickness was very good. The acting was pretty good overall, but I felt Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage were especially good. Ken Stott as Balin I also enjoyed, especially in scenes between him and Bilbo. Actually, the film had some good things to say about greed, loyalty, courage, even loving your enemies (as strange as that seems in a movie where lots of people kill each other).
So, overall, what did I think of the movie? I thought it was okay, but stuck too much to amazing cinematography and fight scenes, while forgetting about telling a good story. A rating out of 10? I would say somewhere around 6.
What about you? Did you watch The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies? Did you like it, hate it? What about this blog post: do you agree that American movies may have an obsession with epic? Feel free to comment below!