Peter Jackson irks me sometimes. Perhaps it’s because he had the courage to bring Middle-earth to life. Given my decades-long love of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, whoever made these live-action movies would have earned some of my ire. Frustrated expectations are inherent in the creative process of translating book to film—whatever a screenwriter or director does, it’s not going to look exactly like what the booklover imagined.
And Pete isn’t exactly afraid to change the storyline, especially for the Hobbit trilogy. So as I’ve watched, I’ve found myself constantly asking questions. Why did you feel the need to change that? Why did you change the dialog when Tolkien’s version is obviously so much better?
I did ask these questions as I watched The Battle of the Five Armies this evening, but I found myself being very much less irked this time around. Maybe it was my attitude going in. Or maybe my first impression is right: This is far and away the best movie of the three.
First of all, I found the pacing much better this time. Unexpected Journey and Desolation of Smaug both had times where the scenes seemed to drag on and on, while others were rushed. This time the pacing seemed much more even, except perhaps near the end of the movie during the “journey home” sequence, which was a bit rushed. We have been promised an additional twenty minutes for the extended edition of Battle, so perhaps PJ will add most of the footage to that part.
What I really appreciated was 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. (I’m not sure if that makes sense to those who haven’t seen the movie, but think about it while you watch and see if you find it to be true.)
And, of course, the races of Men, Elves, and Dwarves finally begin to respect each other after fighting a common enemy. It is often through adversity that we come to understand each other. And Peter Jackson portrays this on screen in a way Tolkien never did with words on a page.
So, that’s my first impression of the film. I plan to re-watch the movie over the holiday break, so you can expect a more detailed review in the coming weeks. Be looking for it.