The Unfinished Edition
4 January 2015
It's funny, because each year that there's a Peter Jackson Middle Earth film released, I find myself less excited by the new December theatrical release, and more excited by the November Extended Edition release. That has never more been the case with these new Hobbit films. The second film, The Desolation of Smaug, while enjoyable in theaters, felt like tiresome action schlock that cut out some of the best parts of the book in favor of exhausting nonstop action. The extended edition bluray released last November rectified and fixed pretty much every major issue I had with the theatrical version of the film.

So, when the less than stellar reviews for The third and final installment of The Hobbit came out, a part of me wondered if it was even worth seeing it in theaters at all. Should I just wait for the extended edition next November? Well, curiosity got the better of me and I went out and saw it and ... yeah you're probably better off waiting for the extended edition. Let's just call this the Unfinished Edition.

It's no secret that there was a lot difficulty getting these Hobbit films made. First there was all the difficulty getting the rights to the film, then there was the New Zealand actors strike, then Del Toro's departure during pre-production leaving Peter Jackson holding the boat, and lastly, there was the last minute decision to turn this from a duology into a trilogy. Keep in mind also Peter Jackson had 3 years of pre-production time on the original Lord of the Rings Trilogy. On The Hobbit, he had less than one year. When you watch all the behind the scenes footage on the appendices of the Extended Editions, you can see that they really are working themselves to the nub right up until the very last minute to get everything done in time for release.

As a result, The Hobbit movies just don't measure up in comparison to the Lord of the Rings movies. They look and feel rushed. They rely a lot more on CGI, and just don't have that polished finish. I think the decision to go 3D was a mistake too, because it forced Peter Jackson to abandon a lot of his practical effects techniques to get his forced perspective shots since he had to use two cameras in all scenes. This resulted in green screens in nearly every scene.

The Battle of Five Armies, in particular, feels the most like a CGI cartoon or video game cutscene. Billy Connolly's character, Dain Ironfoot, looks entirely CGI in some scenes. Maybe he wasn't available for reshoots or something. Again, more evidence that the film was rushed.

But the biggest problem with the film was in what was left out. They focused on the battle, which is actually just one chapter in the book, but left out pretty much all of the aftermath of the battle, which is actually a pretty large chunk of the book. I was surprised by this because I thought that if they were going to devote a whole movie on the last quarter of the book, you'd think they devote more time to more than just a couple of chapters. I suppose Peter Jackson didn't want people complaining about "too many endings" like they did in Return of the King. But without those resolutions, the movie really feels incomplete, and truly does feel unfinished. There are too many loose ends.

All that negativity aside, I actually do think this is a really good movie and I did enjoy it quite a bit. There were a lot of great moments. When Peter Jackson stayed true to the source material, he nailed it. There were some great duels in the battle itself, some of the action sequences were stunning, although I could have done with a few less Alfrid hijinks and a bit more Master of Laketown's hijinks (he was a better character and his character's hijinks actually WERE in the book, whereas Alfrid was made up for the film).

I also am happy he adapted parts of the appendices of Lord of the Rings for these movies. The Dol Goldur scenes were a welcome addition and I was really happy to see them. It was great seeing Saruman (Christopher Lee) in action with the White Council.

Overall, yeah, I enjoyed it, but there were a lot of things that bugged me. I'm holding out hope that the Extended Edition will fix a lot of the problems I had with it. Since they have 11 months to tinker with the film before it comes out, maybe they'll have time to properly finish it.
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