Saturday, October 15, 2016

'The Hobbit' extended in a three-day event: part 3

Here's part three of my reviews of the Fathom Events presentations. This one was posted a year ago today.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies extended edition

The world premiere of the extended version of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" was shown Tuesday night in select theaters by Fathom Events, delighting fans, and earning its unprecedented R rating with some especially violent scenes.

Fans of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy finally were treated to the final version of the final chapter, as the promised twenty additional minutes were shown for the first time to the general public as part of the movie. The digital version of the extended cut of "The Battle of the Five Armies" comes out next Tuesday, while physical copies (DVD and Blu-ray) are scheduled to be released November 17, according to a Warner Bros. September Press Release.

As with the longerversion of "The Desolation of Smaug," the additional footage was more than just filler. The scenes bridge the gaps in the story line and help the story flow better. Audri Davis of Geeky News quips that while the "extra scenes" were "wonderful," her "real issue comes from the fact that they weren’t included in the theatrical release, because they would’ve dramatically improved pacing and characterization."

In a previous review in this column, it was pointed out Peter Jackson's emphasis on battles stands in contrast to the novel JRR Tolkien wrote. "For Tolkien, war and heroism are on the periphery. They are part of the story, and a catalyst for change in his protagonists, but they are never the main focus. Jackson makes them the main focus." It seemed inevitable the final movie would be re-titled in honor of the epic battle, while the word "battle" is not ever included in a chapter title in Tolkien's book.

However, especially in the longer version, Jackson finds a way to emphasize more than just war in his final tribute to Middle-earth. Tolkien fans should be able to appreciate the humanity of the movie. 

The battle sequences have a different feel than the skirmishes in the previous films. A lot of orcs lose their heads, but there is more purpose in it. This is underscored in one particular scene when the orcs are beginning to overrun the ruined city of Dale, where the people of Laketown took refuge after Smaug destroys their homes. Bard meets Alfrid, who is trying to sneak away with some treasure, and Bard tells him to get back to the fight. Alfrid snaps back he does not have to do what Bard says, and adds, "The master's mantle was there for the taking, but you threw it all away. And for what?" The camera then pans to Bard's family. They are what is important. They are worth more than any title. They are worth fighting for.

What a contrast from the Master of Laketown. When the dragon attacks, he comments the town cannot be saved, so "save the gold." And as his boat begins to sink under the weight, he pushes Alfrid overboard so he doesn't have to give up any of the town's treasury he has stolen.

The Master and Alfrid do not overcome their desire for gold, but Thorin does. The scene where he struggles with his demons is well done. The "dragon sickness" is overcome by the words of his friends who have been reminding him what is important – and his own words that he is not his grandfather Thror, who succumbed to greed for gold long ago. Hoarding gold does no one any good—leastwise the hoarder. You might be able to build monuments to yourself, but without friendly neighbors to deal with, it does little else. You can't use it for food, and it won't save your life if you are attacked.

The Master of Laketown, Alfrid, and Thorin all die in the end. But Thorin dies with friends, and with a renewed perspective on what is truly important. His final words to Bilbo, although changed a bit from those written by Tolkien, are appropriate.

If more people valued home above gold, this world would be a merrier place.

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