Day 327: Five Week Middle-Earth Movie Marathon Week 5

5 week middle earth movie marathon week 5

A full day meant that I had a late night viewing of the final film in the Middle-Earth movie marathon. Perched on the bed with a late dinner as well, I enjoyed watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Not only was the Middle-Earth movie marathon part of my first today, this was also my first full viewing of the extended edition of this Hobbit film, which adds another 25 minutes to the movie. I had a sneak peek immediately after I purchased the dvd, however, I saved the full film to savor this evening.

And I did savor it. This middle film in the trilogy moves deeper into the adventure of Thorin Oakenshield and his company, made up of 13 dwarves and one hobbit. The first film is much lighter, as the characters are being introduced and established, while this one delves into the darker undertones. It is in that darkness that we begin to see who Thorin, Bilbo and the others truly are.

Beorn, the skin changer, is introduced in this film. I loved his character in the book and looked forward to meeting him on the big screen. What I thoroughly enjoyed were the additional minutes in the extended edition that focused on the mighty man who can shift into a gigantic and ferocious bear. The scene where Gandalf introduces the company to Beorn, who does not care for dwarves, is one of the most light-hearted scenes in the movie. It is unfortunate that it ended up on the editing floor, but very welcomed indeed in this longer version of the film. I confess to replaying the scene several times, to enjoy the expressions on each character’s face and Gandalf’s rare case of nervousness.

Bilbo is transforming, rapidly. No longer the timid and mild hobbit who fussed over his mother’s dishes and doilies, Bilbo tells Gandalf that he found something in the goblin caves….his courage. Although it might be noted that he was not yet courageous enough to tell Gandalf about the precious ring he found! The ring gives Bilbo a sense of courage often born out of desperation. He uses his sword, which is christened Sting. He engages in battle. He acts as the burglar he was hired to be. And he begins to show signs of leadership, as when he takes action in the musty and darkly enchanted forest of Mirkwood, home to huge spiders, and King Thranduil and the woodland elves. His cleverness shines forth as well. The barrel scene, Bilbo’s exit strategy for the company imprisoned in Thranduil’s kingdom, is one of my favorite sequences in the movie.

I watched with keen interest the growing relationship between the dwarf, Kili, and the warrior she-elf, Tauriel. I know some Tolkien purists disliked the addition of a new character in the story. I researched her a bit, and the reasoning behind Peter Jackson’s decision. He felt a strong female character would be a great counterpart to the mostly male cast, Galadriel being the only other prominent female. He kept her in alignment with Tolkien’s depiction of the woodland elves. Her name, Tauriel, means “daughter of the forest.” I like Tauriel. Although I am a huge Tolkien fan, I am not opposed to change and adaptation. I think her character is well done and I like the romantic element between her and Kili. I suppose because the final film is so near, the scenes featuring their story caused my eyes to sting with tears tonight.

This film fleshes out the titular character, Smaug, in powerful detail. I found the special effects to be as stupendous as the fire breathing dragon himself. British actor Benedict Cumberbatch lends his marvelous voice to Smaug, and actually, through stop-action filming, movements and actions as well. When I first read the story years and years ago, I wasn’t sure what I thought about a talking dragon. But of course he must speak. How else would we know his chilling thoughts? His character, like Gollum’s, is an essential computer generated character that is so important to the story. I am left wide eyed in the final scene, as Smaug flies toward Lake Town, rasping, “I am fire. I am death.” When the screen goes to black, I exhale, both in relief and disappointment that it’s over.

My final thoughts are about additional minutes and footage of Gandalf in Dol Guldur, Sauron’s stronghold where he is gathering his dark army as he gathers his strength. Very vital information ended up on the cutting room floor here too. So much about the return of Sauron and the connection between the Dark One and the dragon is revealed that I’m surprised the decision was made to remove those scenes. And, big wow for me….Thrain, Thorin’s father, is discovered, alive, by Gandalf. I’ve been waiting for him to appear and thought maybe he would be found in the final film. But no, here he is. Again, it seems so important a revelation that I wonder how it was cut from the theatrical version. I am glad to see it included here. Only a shell of who he was, he sighs to Gandalf, “I have been here a lifetime.” He gives a message to Gandalf for his son. Perhaps, since Gandalf has been apart from the company during most of film 2, he will share Thrain’s message with Thorin in the next movie by way of a flashback for the viewers.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug concludes the 5 Week Middle-Earth Movie Marathon. How fun it has been to watch all five movies as a preparation for the final film, in the Hobbit trilogy and the Middle-Earth saga, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. This defining chapter is scheduled for release December 17. I know it is only a movie. And yet, I also know, beyond a doubt, that this one is going to be very powerful for me, very emotional. Two months ago, my mind would shy away from the thought of it, whispering, “I’m not ready….I’m not ready.” This movie marathon has shifted that. I will weep. Perhaps as soon as the music starts during the opening scene. I will hurt because it is still physically painful to me to allow strong emotion to move through me. But allow it to move through, I will. I am ready.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug

Day 320: 5 Week Middle-Earth Movie Marathon Week 4

5 wk mmm TH AUJ week 4

After completing the Lord of the Rings Trilogy last week, today, for the fourth week of the marathon, I began The Hobbit Trilogy. As I popped The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey into my tv/dvd player, I scrolled through my blog posts, sure that I had written about this movie before. I haven’t actually done a review of this film. I’ve mentioned it in several posts, especially as I was working on The Hobbit Fan Contest. This, then, will be my thoughts about the first Hobbit movie. As with the other Peter Jackson films, I chose to watch the extended edition version.

The LOTR movies had such a great impact on my life, that I didn’t see how The Hobbit films could possibly do the same. This prequel to the Lord of the Rings was not my favorite JRR Tolkien story. However, I admired Peter Jackson’s ability to bring to life the complex characters from Tolkien’s books and I looked forward to a return visit to Middle-Earth. Gimli the dwarf was not my favorite character. I didn’t dislike him. I just liked some of the other characters more. And, Bilbo, while important in the Lord of the Rings story, is a minor character in that film. He is nearing the end of his life. After he passes the One Ring on to Frodo, he journeys to Rivendell and we only see him a couple of other times in the trilogy.

There are references to Bilbo’s great adventure during the LOTR, including a look at the stone trolls and peeks at the book he is writing, as he records the tale for Frodo. I knew Sting the sword, and the mithril shirt were acquired during that dragon hunt. So I felt more indulgent than excited about the film as I prepared to view The Hobbit in the theater for the first time. I sat back, ready to enjoy a good story in my beloved Middle-Earth. And enjoy the story I did. To my surprise, I fell in love with another amazing cast of characters. I missed Aragron and Arwen, yet some of my other favorites from LOTR were there: Gandalf, back to being the Grey, Elrond, Galadriel, Legolas, and a cameo by Frodo.

I was impressed with Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves. Fierce, stubborn, proud, warrior-like, my appreciation for this displaced band of journeyers was sincere, and strong. And Bilbo, young and uncertain of his worth, did indeed carry this movie as an unexpected hero, on a very unexpected journey. Tonight, watching the film again, I noted the scenes that stirred my own sense of adventure and took notice of the lines that were worthy quotes. Here are a few of the stand out sections that spoke to me in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Bilbo, though still young by Hobbit reckoning, has settled into a predictable and sedate lifestyle. An adventure is the last thing he wants to experience, when Gandalf comes to visit. The wizard, who is very familiar with Bilbo’s ancestry, sees the cleverness and courage lurking within the Hobbit, and calls him forth. Some of the most powerful lines in this film are spoken to Bilbo, who fainted at the thought of encountering a fire breathing dragon, and wants to sit quietly to recover. Says Gandalf, “You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. Tell me, when did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? I remember a young Hobbit who was always running off in search of Elves in the woods. He’d stay out late, come home after dark, trailing mud and twigs and fireflies. A young Hobbit who would’ve liked nothing better than to find out what was beyond the borders of the Shire. The world is not in your books and maps. It’s out there.” Gandalf’s words not only give Bilbo pause, they give me pause too. I noticed for the first time the word beyond in his dialogue. I don’t want to experience the world through books, maps or movies. I am proclaiming, like Bilbo, “I’m going on an adventure!”

When Galadriel asks Gandalf why he included the Halfling on the adventure, Gandalf tells her that having Bilbo along infuses him with courage. “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay…small acts of kindness and love.” It is the good-hearted Bilbo who inspires Gandalf, and his small acts that have the biggest impact. I too am capable of such everyday deeds and acts of kindness and love to keep the darkness at bay. Bilbo infuses me with courage as well. This conversation takes place in Rivendell, a place of beauty and restorative peace. I have been captivated by Rivendell since LOTR and I am inspired to create Rivendell-like spaces, whether in my garden or somewhere larger. I love the additional Rivendell scenes included on the extended edition version.

Thorin Oakenshield, like Aragorn in LOTR, undergoes the most transformation. For him, though, unlike Aragorn, he must first descend into an obsessive madness. After being driven from his kingdom of Erebor and losing his grandfather, the king, and his father, Thorin becomes a homeless wanderer. “And he never forgave. And he never forgot.” His deep anger fuels his passion for reclaiming his kingdom, and his treasure. And yet, he is a noble warrior, and very protective of his nephews and his company. By the end of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, he has an awakening respect for Bilbo, his burglar who has never stolen a thing. There is a dragon involved too, of course, but more about him after the next Hobbit movie.

I have appreciated the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the Middle-Earth stories and to lay aside what I thought I knew and perceive anew with fresh eyes. As a result, I’ve continued to draw life lessons from these films while also enjoying the epic adventures. One more week remains in the marathon, and with it, the chance to watch the extended edition of The Desolation of Smaug, which I have not seen in its entirety yet. And then, the short wait for the last Hobbit movie to release in theaters, mid December. I am ready!

5 wk mmm TH AUJ movie poster