Cine-Meh.

My wife Toni and I just got back from seeing the last installment of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. It was our first time in a movie theater here in Tucson; my first time in a cineplex that boasts twenty — twenty! — full size screens. This was the last time I will see a Peter Jackson version of a Tolkien novel — one assumes. Actually, one hopes. I love Tolkien. I love Peter Jackson. The Lord of the Rings series is, bar none, the best movie interpretation of a novel that I have ever seen. But I’ve read Tolkien’s other works: The Children of Hurin, The Silmarillion, the short pieces in the Tolkien Reader and a volume or two of lost tales — and I do hope this is the last Tolkien piece they try to make into a feature film. Anything else will lose something that it can’t afford to lose. This series almost did, mainly because they took one book and tried to turn it into three movies. I hope they don’t do it again.

So how was this last movie? It was good. It was entirely satisfying as the conclusion of an epic fantasy trilogy (Warning to Ye Hardcore Geeks: I like all six Star Wars movies.): there were heroic deaths and mighty battles, and plenty of just-in-the-nick-of-time rescues, and plenty of foe-vanquishing. There was some pungently aromatic cheese — Evangeline Lilly with tears in her eyes crying out, “Why must it hurt so much?” You could slice that and put it on a burger — and some great funny moments, particularly the surprise arrival of Billy Connolly’s voice. I liked that, just as with the LOTR movies, there was not even an attempt to make the battles quote-unquote “realistic;” I enjoy the fact that these movies have dwarves fighting while standing atop barrels rolling — well, floating while remaining perfectly upright, as if they had magic gyroscopes on the bottoms and grip tape on the rims — down a raging river while orcs leap at them from the shore, and yet their timing is perfect and nobody falls down, except the orcs as they get smited with dwarven ax-blows. I enjoy that the massive orcish armor, which looks like they yanked it off a WWII-era Soviet tank and then bolted it straight to their sternums, can somehow be pierced by a 3’6″ hobbit swinging a short sword; he’s running and dodging and ducking and spinning, and yet his backhand blow can go right through that solid mass of metal and drop an orc with but a single blow. I like that. Why? Because realism has no business in these movies. What the hell is the point of making a battle between a dwarf and an orc realistic? I am happy that Peter Jackson recognized that logical contradiction and stayed true to the intent of the books: Epic. Fantasy. I wish we had gotten to see the final apocalyptic destruction of the orcs, as we did in LOTR when  Barad-Dur fell and all the evil was devoured by the earth, but this was the right way to end this particular battle: LOTR is the story of a world, but The Hobbit is the story of a hobbit; and Bilbo was, quite appropriately, the focus of the final scenes.

So yeah: good movie. I’d like to get the extended DVDs and watch them all again, though I won’t watch them as often as I watch Lord of the Rings.

But if the movie was good, you ask, why that title for this post? Why CineMeh?

Because of everything else.

Because the previews and commercials went on for a full forty minutes before the movie actually started.

Because my goddamn popcorn cost $7.75, and the “small” soda (Which was still 20 ounces) was $6.

Because Toni got “pretzel bites” that came with a cheese dipping sauce that was more akin to — I’m going to go with badger vomit — than it was to actual cheese.

Because the seat next to me was empty until the very last people to come into the theater. I hate that.

Because the seat next to Toni was occupied by a young pre-teen who spent the entire time not only talking to the smaller child beside her, but waving a white paper bag from the concession stand as if it had the words “VISUAL DISTRACTION!” written on it, and also spoiling every single scene for Toni, who had not seen this movie twice before as the child had. “Oh! This is the part where the dwarf sneaks up on the elf!” “Oh, this part is sad — he dies.” “Watch this: the orc is about to come up right behind him.”

Parents, please: I beg of you. Tell your children not to make noise in the movie theater. Insist that they not speak. And you sit in the middle of them, not at the end of a string of four kids with an innocent stranger on the other end; with you in the middle you can reach all of them and smack them when they spoil the movie. I understand, you’re guarding the aisle — tell them not to run up and down the aisle, either, and smack the one on the end if he tries to make a break for it. Sure, I have no doubt that your own movie experience will be rotten, as you’ll have to spend the entire time trying to make a whole group of goblins sit still despite all the sugar you bought for them. But that’s the price you pay.

Me? I paid $7.75 for popcorn. Frankly, I’m tapped out.

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