Film Focus: Hobbit finale fails to reach heights of previous Jackson epics

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After a frenetic opening, Jackson struggles to keep pace

FILM FOCUS – The Hobbit: The battle of the five armies

THE notion of a 320 page novel spawning three films with a total running time of a 474 minutes should be ludicrous and in an age of austerity infeasible, but in Hollywood, where they live in a different reality, ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy has already proved a blockbuster success.

The last film in the series, ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ was released in cinemas on Friday and as  expected the Peter Jackson epic rose sharply to the top of the charts taking in £9.73m in its opening weekend. Not bad for a film based on roughly 100 pages!

So with a total budget over the three films of over £470m is the last instalment any good? In short, yes, but unfortunately, at least in my own estimation, it fell short of my lofty expectations.

I had been excited about the release of this film for some time, but to be honest it just felt like a watered down Lord of the Rings; less violence, less action and less substance. It is almost impossible to not draw comparisons between the two Jackson trilogies and it is by this comparison the films fall down. Another relevant similarity would be the two HBO war series Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Similar in context, but worlds apart in quality; the sugar and the sweetener if you will or the butter and the spread; close, but not the real thing.

The Five Armies begins with Smaug, the fearsome dragon laying waste to Laketown, forcing the residents to flee for their lives. While Smaug meets an unfortunate end soon after the dwarves take their place at Erebor, their former home.

As news of the dragon’s demise reaches the rest of middle earth the armies of men, elves and orcs march to grab their piece of the treasure, while Thorin Oakenshield, fights to protect his ancestral home and new found fortune. So as you can expect it all comes to a head and fighting commences, but nothing like the quality and frequency witnessed in the Lord of the Rings. The problem for the Hobbit films is that, unlike the books, they came after. If the Hobbit films had come first it would have been the perfect prelude to Lord of the Rings as I must admit I left the cinema already planning a Fellowship, Two Towers, Return of the King marathon. As it is The Hobbit and more specifically ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ is undone by what has come before.

Yes it is still enjoyable and I would go see it again, but after a frenetic opening, Jackson struggles to keep pace and the grandeur of the fight scenes just don’t compare to Lord of the Rings.
The landscape is of course breathtaking and Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo Baggins is a highlight, but I’m sorry I expected more.

A middling end for this middle earth saga. Will always be the poor relation to the Lord of the Rings. Three Stars

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