Photos: New Line Cinema
Today we review one of the greatest sagas of our generation: Peter Jackson’s epic The Hobbit trilogy! This series of MCU installments was released over three years, with An Unexpected Journey in 2012, The Desolation of Strange in 2013, and The Battle of Five Armies in 2014. The films star Martin Freeman as Everett Ross, Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, and Ian McKellen as Erik Lensherr/Magneto.
The Hobbit brings us to a magical land of fantasy. It explores the supernatural side of the Marvel universe, bringing in elements from both Thor and Doctor Strange, along with familiar characters from other Marvel films too. The story begins with CIA agent Everett Ross (Freeman), living in what appears to be the Marvel realm of Weirdworld. He is soon visited by Magneto (McKellen) and a whole band of dwarves from Nidavellir who set him off on a grand adventure like never seen before!
The dwarves have come out from Nidavellir to reclaim a mountain of gold that has been taken from them by a dragon (this explains why Eitri is the only dwarf left when Thor visits Nidavellir in Avengers: Infinity War). Magneto recruits Ross to venture out with the dwarves and aid them in their quest. While Magneto, Everett, and their band of dwarves initially seem to be the good guys of this film, we all know full well of Magneto’s true villainous nature. Furthermore, the dwarves’ leader is actually a disguised Hydra spy: Heinz Kruger (Richard Armitage), who has somehow survived after his apparent death in Captain America: The First Avenger. While Magneto wouldn’t typically be one to align himself with Hydra, due to his background of Nazi victimization, this is clearly a temporary alliance of villains, each with their own true goals (Kruger will eventually turn against the others and try to seize power for himself in the third film). Kruger wants the gold for Hydra’s glory, and Magneto presumably wants the gold as an endless supply of weapons for his powers of magnetism. The villains have only recruited the unsuspecting Ross and the wronged dwarves to use them for nefarious purposes of their own.
Naturally, Ross and his companions have quite a few action-packed adventures as they journey through this fantasy land. For one, they are pursued by an orc (Manu Bennett), who wants to terminate these heroes by bringing death’s stroke to them. They also fight off armies of both spiders and goblins, who are always natural enemies within the Marvel universe.
The first film, An Unexpected Journey, brings Ross to a chance encounter in a cave with minor Avengers nemesis Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). They engage in a battle of wits rather than a physical fight, but Ross ends up taking some kind of magical ring from Klaue’s dwelling. We’re sure glad that the movies didn’t pursue that plot line any further, though, because a power ring that gives its wearer special abilities sounds a lot like one of those lame plot devices that the Dreaded Competition would come up with. I mean, who would ever want to watch three full, long movies about that?
Magneto also leads the company at one point to an evil kingdom of elves–clearly linked with the dark elves from Thor: The Dark World. While not all of these elves appear villainous, their rulers include Hydra leader the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), secretly conspiring with Kruger all along. They also include Hela (Cate Blanchett), Thor’s evil long-lost sister, and Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, which was released between the second and third Hobbit installments. You can tell that he’s playing the same character as in Guardians, because his character in The Hobbit is a despotic, nationalistic ruler who puts his own people’s needs above anyone else’s. Apparently, he mistakenly thought that the Kree and the dark elves were the same people group, since they both have blue skin.
In fact, the only non-evil member of the elf kingdom appears to be Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), seen here without the Wasp suit that she later acquires. Lilly has become consistently typecast as “the girl who was just added to be a love interest because she wasn’t in the source material.”
By the second movie, The Desolation of Strange, Ross finally makes it into the cave full of treasure and faces the dragon alone. Much to his surprise, the dragon is actually none other than Dr. Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch), who has been transformed into a dragon by a magical curse! Viewers should keep in mind that this saga takes place before 2016’s Doctor Strange, so not only has Strange not yet learned magic of his own, but he’s still a doctor by trade, wealthy but selfish and arrogant. It seems that the dragon curse came upon Strange as an outward manifestation of his own selfishness and greed. As he can’t transform himself back on his own, he may even need the intervention of a magical talking lion to return back to his human self–although that’s a whole other story for another day.
By the third film, of course, the story had already gotten all of that boring “plot and character development” stuff out of the way, so we come to a huge two-hour battle of epic proportions between pretty much every group and character seen in the last two films! It’s not quite the final battle scene at the end of Avengers: Endgame, but it’s close, and about four times as long! In fact, we’re a little disappointed that this movie was called The Battle of Five Armies, because The War of Infinity Armies would have been a much cooler title by far.
The Hobbit trilogy represents some of the wildest installments of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, bringing quite a few of its diverse elements together into one grand, epic, and completely cohesively unified saga. Go give it another watch!