THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
(directed by Peter Jackson, 2014)
***+ (out of 5)
> I am nowhere near as down on this final chapter of the Lord of the Rings prequels as other critics seem to have been. Yes- it is the least of the six films- and yes, this is a bummer. It would have been nice to go out with a bang. But it’s really not that much different from the other two HOBBIT films, which, though an obvious step down from the first trilogy, are fine entertainments in their own right.
. This film is panned as not having a plot, but being one big, extended fight sequence. Can’t say that’s the film I saw. Though there may have been less plotting than in previous outings, there was plenty going on to hold your attention throughout. Again, the settings, cinematography, stunts and art direction are all superlative. True, Ian McKellan’s Gandolf has precious-little to do here, and Martin Freeman’s Bilbo is not the focus of most of the final chapter, but we are treated to quick cameos from familiar characters from the other five films that are a treat. We get a ferociously feisty Cate Blancett again- facing off against the evil burning vagina of Saruman. We get a really kickass sequence of Sauron (still good) kicking ass- quite a feat for ninety year old actor Christopher Lee- who just released a heavy metal Christmas album! Plus Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm, Orlando Bloom, Stephen Fry… And we get a cursory new character played by that ever-wonderful Scotsman Billy Connolly.
. True, it does seem a bit of a let-down that Smaug the terrible dragon is disposed of before the opening credits even roll, but his swan song is one of his best scenes. Also true, that (as in RETURN OF THE KING) once the foe is inevitably vanquished, the film totally loses steam, and even though it only runs about five minutes, the denouement still feels painfully long, as an exhausted Bilbo makes his way back to the comfort of The Shire. But so what? THE HOBBIT was fun filmmaking. It’s not supposed to be Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
. Might the HOBBIT films have been better if Guillermo del Toro (one of the screenwriters of the trilogy) had been the director, as originally planned? Maybe. I doubt it. Personally- I’d like to have seen Alejandro Jodorowsky take it on, leaving Peter Jackson free to find something else to amaze us with. And this begs the question: what will the great modern Kiwi director do now?
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