It's to Jackson's credit that the enormous barney at the end is a proper highlight and not just a re-hash of the sturm und drang at the end of the second and third Rings films. The film's High Frame Rate 3D imagery shows the action in razor-sharp detail and sets a very high standard for those hoping to follow in the fantasy genre. At times you just want to press pause and savour the beauty of the scenery, the intricate detail in the set-dressing, and the effort that's been put into the costumes and armour. It's also fortunate that nearly all of the regrettable video-game-like moments from The Desolation of Smaug are missing from this film. (Well, there is one now-traditional moment for Super Legolas, but that can be forgiven). The sound design is adept too, of course, making full use of the subtleties and power of a great rig like that in the Embassy.
Apart from an inconsequential love story, which is serviceably handled (Evangeline Lilly already has an elf name to begin with!), there is little in the way of particularly meaty acting for the cast to do, unless fight choreography counts as acting. That's not a complaint, because the fighting is excellent. But The Hobbit hewed much closer to the action film genre than the previous trilogy, and it's only near the very end of Five Armies, when Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman provide a wordless scene with a commendable spot of acting 'business' that you remember that characters can interact with each other without the scenery crashing down around them or gigantic orcs bearing down to cleave them in two. And while the desire to tie up the loose ends and link back to the outset of The Fellowship of the Ring is understandable, Jackson again shows his unwillingness to opt for a snappy ending; instead, goodbyes must be drawn-out and somehow profound.
No matter - at least in the rush to expand two films into three the resulting finale was an entirely bearable 144 minutes long. This is a much more humane length than the epic runtimes of the earlier films. And now we can hope that Jackson & co. leave Tolkien for good, because the last drops have surely been squeezed from that particular source. No Silmarillion, no The Children of Hurin, please! I think like many people I've had my fill, and that's from someone who was a big fan when the series commenced. Now after umpteen views of those smug Air New Zealand inflight videos I'd like a healthy break. Maybe now's the time to make that Tintin sequel, Peter?
Movies: Sunset Boulevard, 25 September 2014
Movies: Die Nibelungen, 8 July 2014
Movies: The history of film aspect ratios, 28 June 2013