Where endings begin and beginnings end . . .
As something more akin to a Doctor Who episode, I’ve watched the entire The Hobbit trilogy in reverse.
What started out as a desire to re-watch The Battle of the Five Armies, ended up transforming itself into a spontaneous impulse to follow-up with a viewing of The Desolation of Smaug, followed by An Unexpected Journey.
It’s not the way these films were designed to be seen (nor any other trilogy, for that matter). Nonetheless, the results were surprising.
Well, to start off with, it was quite the journey; almost like time travel I dare say.
You certainly look at things in a weird retrospective. The ending leads to the middle, which leads to the beginning.
Having seen the conclusion of The Hobbit narrative in The Battle of the Five Armies, and Bilbo’s and Thorin’s complete character arcs, The Desolation of Smaug felt like a long and enjoyable flashback to these events playing out in the third film.
Having seen Smaug destroy Lake-town with such brutal force and recklessness, the scene at the end of Film 2 where he flies off towards Esgaroth felt more urgent and distressing. Bilbo’s “What have we done?” couldn’t ring more true.
With the viewing of An Unexpected Journey, I couldn’t help but perceive an overall innocence to the film. Not just the character of Bilbo, but also the other Dwarves and the atmosphere of that story. Watching the trilogy backwards confirmed the strength of this first film and outlined all the more the progressive change of tone in each film.
Unfortunately, the Dwarves’ personalities remain largely undeveloped and this “backwards viewing” reveals little more than what we’ve seen chronologically.
It is the characters of Bilbo and Thorin that stand out the most. Seeing the end of their journey then making your way to the middle-part of the adventure and right up to the start of the Quest provides for an illuminating view on these individuals. Not just in terms of their character, but also the performance by the actors.
If viewing the trilogy you are supposed to witness the evolution of a character, watching it in reverse does the same thing: albeit, the “final” outcome is different. That trepidation and naivety seen in An Unexpected Journey contrasts rather beautifully with the hardened veterans in The Battle of the Five Armies.
And you know what’s great about starting with the final film? By the time you get to An Unexpected Journey, you’ll feel compelled to continue the journey and re-watch the remaining two to complete the circle. So really, watching the trilogy in reverse has the benefit of being without an ending when you get to the “third” film (being the first).
Having said all this, it’s not something I’ll be doing often. Films are ideally meant to be seen in their designated order. Nonetheless, it’s a fun activity to try.
Who knows, I might start with The Desolation of Smaug next time, and proceed with the other two. I’m sure there will be different perceptions to the story.
We’ve already experienced the story the way we needed to when we saw the trilogy in succession. Yet, moving away from the chronological viewing can be an equally invigorating experience.