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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cindy Prascik's Review of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Dearest Blog, with a couple screenings of the final installment of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy now under my belt, I shall try to present some thoughts. Coherence not guaranteed. (But is it ever?)

Spoiler level here will be mild-ish, no biggies, but if you prefer to go in totally blind--if that's even possible with a story that's nearly 80 years old--kindly defer reading until you've seen it.

Having made their way home, the company of Thorin Crabbypants defends its Kingdom Under the Mountain, but there's more than gold on the line when the battle expands.

Where to start...where to start...

Beginning at the beginning, BOTFA kicks off where Desolation of Smaug ended, with an angry dragon descending on the panicked citizens of Lake-town. For such frantic circumstances, the start of the film seems quite slow. Then there is The Thing that happens so quickly I have to wonder why The Thing didn't happen in the last movie, as (in Director Cindy's opinion) it seems more fittingly part of that one, and would have provided a more logical breaking point between numbers two and three.

The Thing is a pretty major development, but dropping it so soon makes it seem almost an afterthought. Once the movie gets rolling, it's not hard to see why filmmakers changed the name from There and Back Again...this movie is not about a trip; this movie is about a fight. While I wouldn't quite agree that it amounts to no more than an extended battle scene, there's definitely a lot of battlin' going on.

At nearly two and a half hours, BOTFA is the most compact of Peter Jackson's six Middle Earth epics, and it honestly does not seem long. Having said that, there are plenty of places it could have been cropped to make a better film, battles among them. (I might also mention the attentive viewer needs just so many shots of a dive-bombing dragon to get what's going on there.) Some CGI is inexcusably poor for a movie that cost so much to make; as with DOS, it's mostly noticeable in the movement of the Elves.

The few lighter moments are hit or miss, with Martin Freeman's wonderful expressiveness getting credit for the hits, and a bunch of flat, obvious gags featuring Ryan Gage taking blame for the misses. The character Tauriel remains a pointless addition, and her simpering looks at Kili and Legolas and Thranduil and...well...pretty much everyone are almost too annoying to bear. Finally, there's simply too little of 12 of the 13 Dwarves we've come to love over the course of the series.

On to the positives...Ken Stott and Martin Freeman remain the heart of The Hobbit, through three movies turning in performances that are consistently genuine, funny, and moving. I'd be remiss in my fangirling if I didn't note that Aidan Turner and Luke Evans are also terrific; this franchise will deservedly make big stars of both, and I couldn't be happier or more proud.

The movie's backed by the usual glorious New Zealand scenery, and the usual glorious Howard Shore score.

Obviously, this is another Jacksonized version of Tolkien; by this point, I'm sure nobody walks into these things expecting a faithful adaptation of the books. (If it were about real people, I'd say it's more "inspired by true events" than "based on a true story.") In many ways, it's Jackson's final thank you to the fans who have loved his vision of Middle Earth, with characters from the other films being name-checked or turning up in cameos and small roles.

Even if the battle scenes run on a bit, there's no shortage of nice fight choreography, cool weapons, and badass hero moments. It would be less than honest to pretend the story isn't stretched pretty thin; this is no Return of the King, and it won't be received as such by fans or critics.

That may feel like going out with a whimper instead of a bang, but in the end it's immaterial to me. Buoyed by my strong affection for the franchise, I have no problem accepting this as a fitting goodbye, and, as with all the other movies in the series, I'm confident my love will only grow with repeat viewings.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies runs 144 minutes and is rated PG13 for "extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images."

I'm not sure this a great movie--and I'm not sure it's not--but I'm mostly happy with it.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies gets seven.

Now, if anyone needs me, I'll be petitioning the Tolkien estate to give PJ the Silmarillion.

Until next time...


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