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(This poem is more detailed than others; spoiler alert.)
Erebor was a mighty kingdom, built by dwarves with gems and gold;
Men of Dale and forest Elves bowed down before their kings of old,
But the dragon Smaug arrived to claim their treasures and their throne,
And the dwarves were scattered, dreaming of their vengeance and their home.
Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit, living in his cozy hole,
Happy to avoid adventures other than a Sunday stroll.
Smoking on his doorstep one day, Bilbo has a sudden meeting
With the roaming wizard Gandalf, who discusses Bilbo’s greeting.
Bilbo soon retreats inside Bag End, not knowing what’s in store;
Soon there is a fateful knock upon the hobbit’s rounded door.
There upon his threshold is a large and pushy dwarf named Dwalin;
Once he shows himself inside, he’s followed by his brother Balin;
Then come Fili, brother Kili, and more dwarves, in all thirteen.
Gandalf then explains he brought them with the promise of cuisine.
Lastly, Thorin Oakenshield arrives to finalize the band;
Bilbo is displeased at this reunion, sudden and unplanned.
After feasting on his food, the dwarves discuss why they are there;
They plan taking back their homeland, though they’re cautioned to beware.
Gandalf promised them a burglar, and he chose Bilbo as such,
But the hobbit’s overwhelmed and not pleased with adventures much.
Bilbo claims he cannot go, so they depart to start their quest,
But he soon decides to leave and join with Thorin and the rest.
Not far into their adventure, they run into three large trolls
And are caught before Bilbo outsmarts their culinary goals.
Gandalf saves the company, but Radagast, a wizard brown,
Then arrives reporting there’s an evil of bygone renown.
He has been to Dol Guldur, where ancient wickedness yet grows.
Who this reborn foe could be is too disturbing to suppose.
Orcs attack astride their wargs, and Thorin’s band is forced to flee
To Rivendell at Gandalf’s urge, though Thorin does so grudgingly.
Lord Elrond still welcomes them and offers food to every chap
And reads the hidden moon-lit letters on a valued Dwarvish map.
This provides a deadline to attain the Lonely Mountain’s height.
Gandalf meets with fellow leaders to discuss things in the night.
After Thorin leaves the Elven city, lest their fortunes change,
Thirteen dwarves and one small hobbit climb the Misty Mountain range.
Thunders rumble, mountains crumble, as stone giants fight and toss,
Yet the team locates a cave without a single member’s loss.
Bilbo then is tempted to return back home, for he’s no aid,
But then goblins catch the party, threatening their escapade.
Bilbo manages to flee but falls into a cavern, where
He perceives a golden ring, as well as Gollum’s lightless lair.
With his glowing dagger, Bilbo is too deadly to be harmed;
Therefore, Gollum plays a game of riddles with the hobbit armed.
After teasers back and forth, the hobbit meets with sly success
When he gives his twisted foe a question Gollum cannot guess.
In the meantime, Thorin’s being taunted by the goblin king,
Who intends to seal their doom, most likely with much suffering.
Gandalf suddenly appears to free them all and find a route;
Massive combat then ensues as they all battle their way out.
Bilbo finds the ring makes him invisible, but mercy shines
When he spares poor Gollum’s life and joins the dwarves outside the mines.
He explains why he came back because he’ll help howe’er he can,
But then they are chased into some cliff-side trees without a plan.
Thorin’s foe, a large pale orc called Azog, wants his blood at last,
And he nearly claims his life till Bilbo saves the dwarf outcast.
Gandalf calls the eagles for a rescue in the nick of time,
Thorin thanks the hobbit for his stand against the goblin slime,
And a distant dragon waits to guard his hoarded gold sublime.
Trekking through the wilderness are Thorin, Bilbo, and the rest,
Fleeing from that ugly orc, who’s proving to be quite the pest.
Gandalf leads them to a house as they are hunted by a bear,
Which protects them from the goblins after giving them a scare.
Waking up, they meet their host, who was the bear, the sequent morn
And get some wary new assistance from the skin-changer Beorn.
Next, it’s further on to Mirkwood, site of dark affairs of late.
Gandalf says that he must leave and bids them walk the path, not straight.
As they journey through the forest, it exerts a strange effect,
And they act as if they’re drugged and soon are lost through their neglect.
After Bilbo climbs a tree and sees the Lonely Mountain near,
Giant spiders capture them and wrap them in a web of fear.
Bilbo frees himself in time and saves his allies with his ring,
And his dagger proves its sharpness and is christened by him Sting.
As the spiders close around them, elves appear and slay them all,
Taking all the dwarves as prisoners back to their King Thranduil’s hall.
Legolas then cages them since Thorin does not bargain well;
Kili, though, can’t help but flirt with lovely wood-elf Tauriel.
Bilbo, still invisible, discovers how to get them out,
Freeing them and placing them in barrels, though they have some doubt.
Soon they’re floating down a river, but before the elves step in,
They’re attacked by hordes of orcs, led by that one with pale skin.
Legolas and Tauriel assist in slaughtering a lot
As the dwarves escape through carnage, but young Kili still is shot.
After landing near the lake, the group encounter bargeman Bard,
Who agrees to smuggle them to Laketown for a price that’s hard.
He is less than popular among the village government,
Who consider him a rebel, sowing protest and dissent.
Though he helps the dwarves inside, their need for weapons makes them rash,
And they raid the armory but are arrested in a flash.
Thorin then reveals his name and earns the village’s support;
Bard, however, fears the dragon his ancestor could not thwart.
No one listens to his doubts but revel in the king’s return,
And they see the questers off without the tiniest concern.
Bofur, Oin, and Fili stay to care for Kili’s injury
And are ambushed in Bard’s house by orcs that just won’t let them be.
Bilbo finds the hidden keyhole in the rocky mountainside
And must go within alone to find the jewel of Erebor’s pride:
Burglaring the Arkenstone is why they brought him on this quest,
So he wanders through the giant halls, an uninvited guest.
Smaug, the great and powerful, can smell him, even with the Ring,
And speaks to him in mocking tones to learn why he is visiting.
Back in Laketown, Tauriel and Legolas arrive to save
Everybody from the orcs, as well as Kili from his grave.
Gandalf, meanwhile, has been busy, looking into Dol Guldur,
Where he now suspects an evil so severe he must be sure.
He stands up to Azog’s orcs but is brought low by one dark lord:
Sauron has returned in force and with a massive goblin horde.
In the mountain, Smaug decides to burn the burglar, guaranteed,
And though Bilbo tries the exit, he is stopped by Thorin’s greed.
All the dwarves then scatter through the lofty vaults of their king’s house,
And the dragon chases them in one huge game of cat-and-mouse.
Thorin will not die like this and chooses to have vengeance still.
Thus the dwarves light up the forge, for they’ve a dragon yet to kill.
After many close escapes, they fill a giant, ancient mold,
Using Smaug’s own dragon fire to produce their molten gold.
With no time for it to set, the statue that the crafters make
Melts away to gild the dragon, all (they think) for vengeance sake.
Yet this only angers Smaug, and he flies off to show his ire.
He will take revenge on Laketown, and his visit will be dire.
Bilbo watches as the dragon plans to scorch the town with fire.

The Hobbit is admittedly an overblown story, at least as told by Peter Jackson. Tolkien’s story is so much simpler than The Lord of the Rings, but Jackson ratcheted up the epicness of the classic children’s story to spread over another trilogy. This is both a benefit and a liability.

On the plus side, Martin Freeman wonderfully steps into the role of Bilbo Baggins, originally played by British thespian Ian Holm. His awkward mannerisms are perfect for the role, and his moment of mercy toward Gollum rang true, something that will end up saving the world by the time of Return of the King.He is a laudable hero to follow through the adventure. Ian McKellan reprises his lovable role as Gandalf, and it is certainly enjoyable to reunite with the lovely tranquility of Hobbiton and with characters like Elrond and Galadriel, even if some have no place in this story. The action scenes are also the highlights of the films. In the first film An Unexpected Journey, there’s the gargantuan stone giant battle, the over-the-top goblin free-for-all, and the harrowing domino-tree escape, and The Desolation of Smaug has the cringe-worthy spider scene, the amusement-ride-style barrel chase, and the slam-bang confrontation with Smaug himself. These scenes exceed those in the Lord of the Rings for bombacity but sometimes threaten to take over the films.

On the negative side are mainly the characters. When I first heard that The Hobbit would be a twosome and then a trilogy, I thought Peter Jackson would use that extra time to build on each of the dwarves, get to know them, and make the audience care for them since some don’t survive the end (I’m purposefully not reminding myself who). Yet with only one more film to go, I’d say he’s failed at that. I like the handsome Fili and Kili for their bravery and daring, kindly old Balin for his prudence and affection for Bilbo, and Bofur for his comic side and for the fact I recognize James Nesbitt. Indeed, these four get the bulk of the dialogue and screen time. The others are just along for the ride, tagging along, distinguished more by the styling of their hair and beards than anything else. Heck, Bombur hasn’t spoken once through two long movies; he’s just the fat one. Repeat viewings have allowed me to notice little details and nuances that help define each character, but those do not a personality make. Also, the fact that I know everyone survives until the last movie saps the action scenes of much of their danger. As for Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, he fills the character with grim determination, but Thorin is too serious and ultimately greedy to be truly likable. (Nonetheless, (major Lost alert!) Evangeline Lilly seems well-suited to play the wood-elf Tauriel after playing main heroine Kate on my favorite show. The love triangle is another point that’s weak, I’m afraid.)

The film also suffers from its over-packed plot. It’s almost as if Peter Jackson forgot how to edit unnecessary scenes, for there are several. The entire Council of Rivendell slows things down too much and adds hardly anything to the plot. Other little scenes, like moments with Radagast the Brown or Legolas’s overly eager orc slaughtering, could easily have been snipped down.

Still, the visual effects are outstanding, as are the sweeping views of the New Zealand countryside. While the goblins in the first film had a strange look to them that made them more cartoonish and less real, the other creature effects are seamless, most especially Smaug, the great wyrm of the Lonely Mountain. Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice makes him so immensely menacing to match the awesome CGI, creating perhaps the best dragon on film to date. I also very much like Howard Shore’s score, and the songs from the ends of both films (Neil Finn’s “Song of the Lonely Mountain” and Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire”) are both in my End Credits Song Hall of Fame.

The Hobbit films as a whole are a mixed bag with moments of brilliance recalling The Lord of the Rings and over-indulgent sequences of mayhem with underdeveloped dwarves. I’m glad that Jackson made The Hobbit, even if most fans of the book are not, but I do wish he had made them more streamlined and character-driven. Either way, I eagerly await The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies later this year.

Best lines: (An Unexpected Journey; Gandalf, to Galadriel) “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid… and he gives me courage.”

(The Desolation of Smaug; Tauriel, to Legolas) “Are we not part of this world? Tell me, Mellon, when did we let evil become stronger than us?”

Artistry: 7
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: 10
Originality: 7
Watchability: 8
Other (violence): -4
TOTAL: 44 out of 60

Next: #178 – The Terminal

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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