I am not a great fan of New Year’s Eve. I think the pressure of being expected to have the most fun night of the year sends everyone a little bit loopy not to mention the outrageous hike in prices. I think I have possibly had about two New Year’s Eves in my life that didn’t end in tears… Fortunately Mr O agrees with me so this is the third year in a row we’ve stayed in. This year we decided to follow up seeing The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (which I have reviewed below) with the original Lord of the Rings trilogy all in one day.
The third installment of The Hobbit trilogy picks up directly after the last one ended with Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) laying waste to Lake-town with only Bard (Luke Evans) between the dragon and total destruction of his home, friends and family. At the same time Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is holed up in Lonely Mountain with the dwarves, headed up by Thorin (Richard Armitage), who is suffering from dragon-sickness, obsessed with the Arkenstone and refusing to make good on his bargain with the people of Lake-town, who are getting a bit fighty about it. Things get more complicated when Thranduil (Lee Pace) arrives with an army of elves, demanding the starlight jewels he believes are the elves’ birthright. Thorin is not to be dissuaded though because his cousin, Dain (Billy Connolly) has just turned up on a giant pig with his army to join the battle. As if that wasn’t enough, Azog (Manu Bennett) and the Orcs have appeared and shit is about to kick OFF! So basically this is one long, epic battle, which is actually surprisingly cool. It was the preamble that was kind of boring although this time I only dozed off twice… and just because it was really, really long. As always with Peter Jackson Battle of the Five Armies looks amazing and it’s packed with a series of heartfelt moments and some serious action but it’s not quite enough to get past that fact that it’s really, really bloated but we were all expecting that anyway. Freeman, despite having very limited screen time continues to be a perfect Bilbo, Armitage gives Thorin a deep dramatic flair and Cate Blanchett is seriously badass in her few moments facing off Sauron. A fun fitting end to the trilogy but like many have said, I’d love to see it all condensed into one three hour film. 3/5
On his eleventy-first birthday hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) vanishes leaving all his earthly possessions to his nephew, Frodo (Elijah Wood) including a single gold ring. Almost immediately after this Frodo is visited by the wizard, Gandalf (Ian McKellan) who tells Frodo that Bilbo found the ring on his earlier adventures and that is the most powerful of nine rings created in the fires of Mordor by evil wizard Sauron to rule the world. The ring has lain dormant in Bilbo’s hands but Sauron is gaining power and if he is able to get his hands on the ring, the time of men on Middle-Earth will be over. Gandalf sends Frodo and his gardener, Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) on a quest to meet a group of companions made up of elf, Legolas (Orlando Bloom), ranger, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and son of the steward of Gondor, Boromir (Sean Bean). Along the way they are joined by hobbit thieves, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) and the Fellowship of the Ring is formed. With the group assembled Gandalf reveals that they need to travel to Mount Doom to destroy the ring, a journey that will take them through the terrifying Mines of Moria and possibly to their own doom. In the first of this epic trilogy director, Peter Jackson immediately immerses us into the dazzling world of Middle-Earth, from the glorious greens of the Shire to the terrifying darkness of the mines of Moria and the ethereal Lothlórien. We are instantly made aware of the the power of the ring and its influence on those around it which creates an air of excitement and danger, which is tempered with just enough comic relief from Merry and Pippin, who have a hobbity skill for finding the fun in scenarios they shouldn’t and causing more trouble than they are worth. Frodo is presented as an unlikely hero – clumsy, tentative and always getting stabbed – but he’s one worth rooting for and The Fellowship of the Ring does a great job of starting off one of the most epic journeys in cinema. 5/5
After seeing the way the ring affected Boromir (Sean Bean), Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) decide to go it alone in taking the ring to Mordor, sneaking off as the company battle a group of Orcs. Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) head off on the trail of Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), who have been captured but after reuniting with Gandalf (Ian McKellan) they come to believe the two are dead and become involved with getting the warriors of Rohan to participate in fighting off Sauron’s army or Orcs, Goblins and Trolls. Meanwhile Frodo and Sam encounter Gollum (Andy Serkis), the former owner of the ring, a creature who has been driven mad by his desire for it. He offers to lead them to Mordor but can he be trusted? At the same time Merry and Pippin have escaped and are in the company of the tree-herders, who might just be all that stands between Helm’s Deep and total destruction. In the second part of the trilogy things take a distinctly political turn, delving into the intrigue that surrounds the human kingdoms of Rohan and Gondor and how they have become set against each other, while also delivering a strong environmental message and demonstrating even further how destructive the call of the ring can be. As the ring’s effect on Frodo becomes more evident it is up to Sam to push him towards his final goal, while keeping an eye on Gollum, who is played with the genre defining brilliance of Andy Serkis as he bounces between his two personalities. The Two Towers is not just about politics and action though and it continues on a strong line of character development demonstrating the inherent conflict that accompanies the desire for power, no matter what lies behind it. There is a little bit of middle film-itis on the go here and in places Two Towers feels a little bit fillery but it’s certainly exciting and goes even further show the magnificence of Middle-Earth. 4.5/5
The battle of Helm’s Deep has been won but the war for Middle-Earth has only just begun. As Sauron’s armies amass, the armies of men and elves are completely outnumbered. If there is going to be any chance of survival not only will Gandalf (Ian McKellan) have to convince Roham and Gondor to work together but Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) will have to lay claim to his birthright and become the king he was always destined to be. While the battle rages Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their treacherous journey to Mordor with Gollum (Andy Serkis) in the lead. But Sauron can sense that the ring is close, Frodo is starting to go a bit mental under the influence of the ring and Gollum is very definitely up to no good. It will take absolutely everything Frodo and especially Sam have if they’re going to complete their journey and save their home. There is no question that the battle in Return of the King is epic… much in the same way that Battle of the Five Armies is but it’s hard not to feel like it totally overshadows Frodo’s journey, which is supposed to be central to the trilogy and that the time spent with Frodo is quite frustrating. It makes sense that he is in a confused and vulnerable state because of the ring and his proximity to Sauron but there is a sense of just wanting him to get on with it and to a large extent Sam becomes the hero of the story. While Return of the King is a fitting end to the trilogy it’s definitely the first sign of Jackson’s tendency to indulge himself to the point of excess leaving us with the film that is probably an hour longer than it should have been. 4/5