REVIEW: The Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies (12A); showing at Alnwick Playhouse at 7pm, December 27 & 28, 2014, and January 2 & 3, 2015
Phew! It’s all over.
There is a palpable sense of relief in both literary and movie circles that Peter Jackson’s self-indulgent, hyper-extended treatment of two JRR Tolkein books is finally laid to rest.
It has been an epic of epic proportions that has had its moments of cinematic brilliance amid an ocean of turgid, time-wasting trudging and fighting.
While the largely computer-generated battle scenes can be greatly appreciated on a technical level, frankly, one skirmish begins to look very much like another.
The Hobbit (published in 1937) and then Lord of the Rings (published in three volumes from 1954 to 1955) were two of my favourite works as a schoolboy caught up in this magical, fantasy land full of hobbits, dwarfs (or dwarves, as Tolkein would have it), orcs, elves, trolls, goblins, wizards and monsters.
They fuelled an active, youthful imagination to create an amazing series of mythical landscapes and scenes from Middle-earth and a crazy collection of gnarled, twisted characters.
Somehow, those images have been shattered as I have witnessed someone else’s vision of the products of Tolkein’s imagination.
Ultimately, I have been left wishing Jackson had adapted the literary masterpieces in the same order they had been penned by Tolkein and read by me.
Then, the Hobbit may have been a single movie it naturally should have been, followed by a Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Let’s just hope that Jackson hasn’t read The Silmarillion, which was published posthumously in 1977.
The Battle Of The Five Armies is actually the best of The Hobbit trilogy.
After the tedium of An Unexpected Journey, which was an unexpectedly arduous trek, and The Desolation Of Smaug, which picked up the pace and left moviegoers teetering on a cliff edge, things had to get better.
The film kicks off with Benedict Cumberbatch at his angry best voicing the dragon Smaug, who is protecting his treasure haul and scorching the human village of Laketown, until the bowman Bard (Luke Evans) challenges and destroys him.
The booty then sparks a series of battles, with top dwarf Thorin (Richard Armitage) turning all greedy and refusing to share the gold with the locals, to the chagrin of hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his merry band.
At this point, we see Billy Connolly riding a pig, combative earth worms and various fights between war bats, eagles, huge grizzly bears and many other repulsive creatures – spectacular fare but somewhat familiar if you have religiously followed the rest of the two trilogies.
It’s over-the-top escapism, a visual feast and the grandest of the Hobbit threesome. Aficionados will herald the exciting finale, but how many, I wonder will now want to sit through the inevitable back-to-back showing of all six films? Me, I’d rather fight a giant earth worm.