The Hobbit: An Unexpectedly Good Trilogy
When discussing the Hobbit Trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, rarely do you find positive notes regarding it. Even when they're regarded, inevitably comparisons are drawn to Lord of the Rings, and how superior that trilogy was in scale, breadth, and cinematic mastery than its prequel successor. This may be true. There is no denying that perhaps Lord of the Rings is simply a superior trilogy cinematically. However, watching these movies once again has allowed me to realize the incredible amount of enjoyment that can be drawn from them! Whether they are timeless masterpieces or not, An Unexpected Journey, Desolation of Smaug, and Battle of Five Armies weave together a tale regarding a race rarely given credence in the world of Tolkien, those being the Dwarves. Despite one of their ilk, that being Gimli, enjoying a starring and leading role in Lord of the Rings, it was mostly served as foil for Aragorn and side-story compared towards the wider intrigue of Men and Elves holding back the tide of darkness. By then, the Dwarves were severely diminished as their holds were sacked and armies scattered by Sauron's armies. Plus, this time the Quest doesn't revolve around an artifact, but rather a military and political objective, that being the Mountain of Erebor. To retake Erebor and the treasures within is a goal that I arguably find just as compelling as tossing the Ring into the fire. After all, the Ring is a very linear and straightforward deal of not succumbing to temptation, whilst Erebor is a location currently owned by a Dragon and sought after by a litany of factions for what strategic or economic treasures it may hold. Near the trilogy's end in Five Armies, we learn from Gandalf that Sauron desperately wants Erebor for its strategic location on which to assault the rest of Middle-Earth, and likely intends to sway Smaug into his legions, which would obviously carry a disastrous implication.
Now, if you asked me to recount all the names of the primary Dwarven cast, I'm afraid on that count I must disappoint. Unless I do a quick Internet search, the only names I can remember off the top of my head are Thorin, Fili, Kili, Bombur, Gloin, and Balin. Here, I must point out a clear weakness the Trilogy carries with it throughout the duration. Despite its best, it seemingly cannot for the live of it grant each Dwarvish character a memorable enough moment or characterization arc to define their identities. Unlike Fellowship and beyond, which gave you enough time to understand the motivations and identities of each member of the adventure and thus care deeply if they were in harm's way or perished (a la Boromir), the Hobbit tries to juggle its already enormous primary cast with a pantheon of side characters, and make you care for all of them. It tries to please too many appetites at once rather than dividing and conquering, and this is where a clear weakness lies. However, credit where it's due, the focus is very clearly on Bilbo, Thorin, and their own relationships in relation to the Dwarves and their quest at large. Unlike Frodo, who was questing on a more existential note to save the entire world from Sauron, Bilbo is questing for a people he knows little of for a goal he can barely understand. Yet the movies display his growth as he learns there is more to this great world beyond his maps and ideations from within Hobbiton, and his growing affection for the Dwarves he once believed an unruly and irritating lot.
Another positive for the Hobbit Trilogy I can note is that it's the first time in Middle-Earth's cinematic history we've witnessed a large scale battle take place not between good and evil, but rather squabbling races battling over shattered ethnic relations. What I mean is, the Dwarves and Elves fighting was rather unprecedented, especially considering you wouldn't expect to view two armies of good duking it out before Erebor. It was only the arrival of Azog's army that forced them to place aside petty differences, lest I believe they wouldn't finished their gruesome combat with only one side surviving. It feels a tad more "realistic" in a sense than Lord of the Rings, and while by no stretch of the imagination is realism a benchmark for wherever a fantasy series is good or not, it certainly does add layers of immersion into the story. It's believable to think the Dwarves and Elves would have bitter stretches of war given their shaky past history, and that Men would take whichever side serves their pragmatic interest.
Speaking of Azog and earlier Smaug, the chief villains in this story, while no Patrick Batemans or Darth Vaders, definitely do contain personalities and "drives" of their own. Smaug is your archetypal Gold-Hoarding greed-embodying winged lizard, yet given the honeyed voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, his stellar personality certainly shines through, especially at the segment where Bilbo negotiates and escapes from his wrath within the Mountain itself. Here, Smaug taunts Bilbo and monologues about how the Dwarves shall become just as entranced and obsessed with the treasure as he. Azog, on the other hand, simply seeks to exterminate Dwarves, more specifically the Line of Durin, as to rekindle his lost pride. Alongside this, Azog also has a son, Bolg, which I found rather interesting regarding the implications of. If Orcs could have lineages, that clearly means there are Female Orcs on some level, right? Or perhaps Bolg was born from the mud like the Uruk-Hai... I constantly wouldn't know.
Nonetheless, there are many upsides to watching the Hobbit Trilogy and little in the way of downsides. Fan-favorites such as Gandalf and Gollum gain new swaths of screentime, and as per usual they steal the show. Figure such as Elrond, Saruman, and Galadriel return, and while this trilogy may not equate to the Lord of the Rings in terms of scale, quality, or majesty, it certainly holds up rightfully in its own aspects.