I usually write short film reviews but in the spirit of stretching things (and attention spans) beyond breaking point, here are my thoughts on the third and final Hobbit movie.
The short version? They rushed Smaug, I kinda hated the next hour and really enjoyed the final one.
Here’s the long version, which won’t contain any spoilers for moments exclusive to the movie but will mention a few plot points from the book and events in parts one and two.
Peter Jackon’s second Middle Earth trilogy ended, for me, in a private screening room. HFR (High Frame Rate), 3D, Dolby Atmos sound. Everything, pretty much, exactly as the filmmakers’ intended. Notice how nobody’s talking about HFR anymore? The naff, pop-up book 3D employed on these movies render the ultra-sharp images artificial but simpler, more static shots look beautiful. The overly shiny CG work has never looked good in pin-point perfect HFR and most of this film has a jarring bloom effect that reminds me of an overbearing Skyrim graphics mod. More like watching an oddly non-interactive RPG, albeit an above average one. Less Tolkein and more Bioware, perhaps?
As for the trilogy itself, I enjoyed part one. Once people actually finished doing the dishes and stopped their damn singing, it was a fun (if entirely inconsequential) ride. Part two was similar. Though I didn’t enjoy botched Beorn opening, the elf/dwarf love story or the gigantic melty golden dwarf of doom (GMGDoD). The third part of this trilogy starts on more solid ground, but I still couldn’t help but think the opening was less that perfect. Rushed even. Yes, Peter actually rushed a section of this story.
Then things got worse. For the next hour we’re treated to shallow, repetitive attempts to deepen Thorin’s character as he falls foul to the curse of all that Dwarfish gold. The movie turns him from Leader of Men, to a bearded Gollum and back to hero all too easily.
But this movie is called The Battle of the Five Armies. It’s when things turn to war that I started to enjoy myself again. Too much time may be spent getting everyone into place, but the arrival of each army is a joy. The final hour of the trilogy proves to be its most entertaining, filled with the kind of inventive set pieces we haven’t seen from Peter Jackson since Return of the King.
The Orcs and Goblin hordes are varied, amusingly hideous creations with a special place in my heart being made for the Headbutt Troll (as I’ve chosen to call him). Dain is a hugely entertainingly personality (in a chorus line of Dwarves, half of whom still haven’t uttered a word by story’s end). Thankfully most of Jackson’s own inventions (Legolas’ prominence, Tauriel, Azog and co) find their moment to shine, each given a satisfying payoff or two. Lee Pace and his mighty elk also get their own Badass Groot Moment (that’s a thing now).
Finally, Bilbo himself has a lot more to do. For a trilogy of movies named after him, he’s felt like a secondary character until now. At last, the charm of Martin Freeman is backed up by the resourcefulness and bravery that was always hinted at in the glint of Ian Holms’ eye.
For fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies, its final part was full of powerful emotion. There’s some to be found here, but this group of characters have never been given the opportunity to get under our skin. Freeman and Ken Stott shine brightest, both delivering brief but effective moments to genuinely tug at the heartstrings. It’s a shame that Ian McKellen has spent much of this trilogy shouting orders, though he has one lovely moment of silent, charming warmth towards the end.
Thorin spends most of his time acting like an ass, though his final duel with Azog is brilliant fun and wonderfully staged. Things end sweetly, with no protracted RotK multiple ending. That’s no surprise though, since we simply do not feel the same affection for these characters. The end credits however, leave us with a surprisingly lovely song written and performed by Billy Boyd (Pippin in the Lord of the Rings), perhaps providing the classiest piece of connective tissue back to Jackson’s original, far superior movies. Elsewhere the references take the form of namedrops, familiar dialogue and imagery and frankly, stick out like a sore thumb.
After 474 minutes of The Hobbit’s story, stretched and twisted by Jackson and Co I can say that I have, for the most part, enjoyed this latest (and probably final) journey to Middle Earth. To put things in perspective, here’s a score for each movie:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Bye bye, Bilbo.
Check out the trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies below:
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