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.
15 thoughts on “So I Just Saw ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy … Backwards”
That is a really neat idea! I’ll have to try that. Then there’s LOTR too…
I watch the LOTR movies out of order all the time but I’ve never intentionally reversed the order to see whether it lends new perspective to such meaningful moments. It’s a great idea; love your insights! Maybe I’ll try it!
This is a fascinating idea. It seems that watching a series of movies in an odd order can help a person look at the story and cinematic elements with new appreciation each time.
Rightly said Rebecca! 🙂
I just did an LOTR movie marathon over the weekend. 11+ hours of nonstop action. Stopped only for toilet break 🙂 It simply amazes me how immersive the movies can still be, even after watching it all at least 30 times before.
Cool idea! 🙂 Would you be willing to watch the Middle-earth films in this order?
1. The Return of the King
2. An Unexpected Journey
3. The Two Towers
4. The Desolation of Smaug
5. The Fellowship of the Ring
6. The Battle of the Five Armies
Or maybe like this:
I’d be willing to come up with a couple more combos but I’m sleepy right now. I’ll try the above suggestions myself in the future. Good night/Good morning!
That’s an interesting combination, Denzel; but I’ll certainly need more than a day or two to complete! 😀
It’s an odd experiment indeed, but I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t literally watch them backwards. starting at the end of TBOTFA and finishing at the beginning of AUJ. Now THAT would have been surreal.
Anyway, it’s always refreshing to see you enjoying these films. With the sheer amount of impassioned hate they continue to get, I keep wondering if there’s something wrong with me!
Sound would’ve been a problem! But an interesting idea, nonetheless!
A well loved story can be picked up anywhere… each time you read or see it, you find more meanings, deeper levels.
Interesting idea. I watch the LOTR movies every couple of years, but honestly, I found the Hobbit movies extremely disappointing. Wonder if making an experiment of them make it more bearable?
Just give it a try! Nothing to lose 🙂
Actually, I did this too after my 2nd viewing of TBOTFA last winter. I discovered that DOS was a much richer film when seen in the light of what happens at the end, and then I went ahead and rewatched AUS and found it so poignant. I don’t know that I’ll purposely watch them in reverse again, but I do feel like knowing the ending has really helped me understand choices made in the first two movies.
Why not mix ‘n’ match with LoTR too? 😉
That’s rather a good idea. I might try that when I have the time!