Monday, 22 December 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The long-awaited conclusion to Peter Jackson's over-extended trilogy has arrived. Considering this is a story about The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins seems to be a in a support role for most of the film. This is not so much a film about The Hobbit but about an over-indulgence in CGI technology and a story that meanders all over the place because the second film in the trilogy set it up to do so.

The CGI and conflagration of five armies means there is a lot of fighting in this film. Much blood is spilled and many body parts hacked off while heads explode. The relentless nature of the fighting is more like a Warhammer player convention or a banshee going wild in a Games Workshop Store! To be honest - I found it too much of the same. Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Goblins, a wizard, Hobbits, Wargs, the men of Dale, a shape-shifter, bats, free folk, eagles, a dragon and a nasty piece of work called Smaug all battle it out to possess the Lonely Mountain which is the gateway to Erebor - the homeland of the dwarves and which contains unfathomable amounts of gold and treasure. Of such things myths are made.

I read the book 40 years ago and I must say that seeing this trilogy would not spur me to re-read it - which would take about the same amount of time as watching all three films back-to-back. This is a pity as the LOTR trilogy stands as a cinematic high point, The Hobbit feels more like a franchise being milked by an over-eager fantasist.

There are plenty of moral and ethical themes to explore in this film as you would expect with anything stemming from Tolkien. There is a beautiful exploration of the power and pain of love as a new emotion for Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) as she is drawn to Thorin (Richard Armitage) in a clumsy love triangle. Bilbo Baggins maintains the challenge of  moral propriety in the midst of great urges to give in to a range of seductive temptations. Courage is evident in many of the main protagonists as are sacrifice and honour.

Unless I missed something in the film the ending was very odd. Even with the good guys winning it seemed that everyone simply went home after the battle - despite their respective claims on the mountain and its treasure. What was that all about? Humour is provided at the end when Bilbo returns to The Shire to find his possessions being auctioned off.

There are many fine acting performances as you would expect with such a stellar cast. Martin Freeman is electric in the tile role. I'm not sure the 3D version would have added much - except possibly a headache. If you are a Tolkien fan or a LOTR aficionado then this will be a good watch for you. If not - it might just be seen as one long battle between confusing groups of ugly and beautiful people - pretty much like the world we live in really. I'll give it 6/10.

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