Although with mixed feelings over this trilogy compared to the seminal masterworks of The Lord of the Rings, I was still optimistic walking into this final entry in director Peter Jackson’s fleshed out (and fleshed out) adaptation of J R R Tolkien’s classic novel. We join Bilbo and his merry band of Dwarves, headed by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) housed up in the misty mountain following resident dragon Smaug having broke free and now laying siege to the nearby city of Lake Town. With riches beyond compare and the search for the Arkenstone underway, Thorin has become corrupted by the greed and lust to take his place as King, and only Bilbo has the power to help having stolen the stone in case it made the dwarf leader even worse. Meanwhile with the mountain now dragon-free, armies begin to approach for their share of the gold, and war looms.
Immediately this is a more dramatic and action-packed entry in the middle earth cannon and things are kicking off pretty much from the start, with the lead up to conflict pretty tense. However the corruption of Thorin and the Dwarves hanging around the mountain is a tad drawn out and I was eager for something to happen – and oh, did it! A massive, immense battle with legions upon legions of elves, orks, humans and dwarves all fighting … yet it was also pretty difficult to care all that much when it seemed like everyone was just out for a bigger piece of the pie – battle for middle earth (or helm’s deep for that matter) this was not. So then I was beginning to really find the dwarves annoying and wishing they’d never gone on their fabled journey, pissed off a dragon, causing countless deaths as a result. The whole quest as I’ve said before just not really seeming as necessary as what we see in LOTR. Are we really meant to care? No, and not even the director does it seems when the much sort after Arkenstone gets forgotten about entirely in the final act (but will no doubt re-surface in the extended edition…).
That being said this was still a real treat for CGI fans and does boast excellent fight sequences (the showdown between Thorin and the Ork baddie especially) and good turns from Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Sir Ian McKellen as the always excellent Gandalf. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo remains solid for the lead, yet still lacks the personality or depth of the likes of Elija Wood’s Frodo Baggins or Viggo Mortenson’s Aragorn. As a conclusion, this had plenty of energy and spectacle but lacked some of the wonder, diversity of locations and the sheer fantasy appeal of the other movies in the series … and for me remains the weakest of the trilogy.
Of all the movies released in 2012, this was my most anticipated. I am a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings, particularly the movie trilogy, and despite some reservations regarding this adaptation of the much loved book, from the dropping out of Guillermo Del Toro to the spreading of the adaptation over three movies … what I witnessed last night has put (almost) all such fears to rest.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is called upon by long time friend and famed wizard Gandalf to embark on an adventure with a band of dwarves, to journey to the lonely mountain and reclaim a desecrated kingdom back from an infamous dragon. Of course Bilbo not being much of a hero (at this stage) is reluctant to join the quest, but is soon setting off in search of Orcs, Trolls and a bountiful treasure. Immediately I was transported back to the franchise I had watched in such awe years ago (and revisited on Blu-ray), with grand spectacle, stunning set design and beautiful New Zealand landscapes bringing to life Middle Earth equally as well as before. I’ll admit to not exactly understanding why Bilbo would even be involved in such a suicide mission with folks he has nothing in common with, just because a wizard pushes him into it … and the immediacy and importance apparent in the Rings trilogy, seemed absent. That being said the characters (including a trio of comedy trolls), wealth of imagination and truly epic battles and confrontations, quickly glossed over such quibbles.
This first foray into a new saga in the J.R.R. Tolkien universe felt as good as I could have expected, may be a tad lightweight, but has more than enough personality and jaw-dropping spectacle to make it worth your time. Oh and that hefty 2hrs 45 minutes run time flew by. Martin Freeman is well cast as Bilbo, different enough from Elijah Wood’s Frodo (pointless cameo aside) to give the new trilogy its own identity, and with quality support from the brilliant Sir Ian McKellen as well as the likes of James Nesbitt, Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett – this Middle Earth fan-boy was grinning from ear to ear. Director Peter Jackson promised big things with this new entry, and although I’m predicting the best is yet to come – I’m happy to say this still delivered. Bring on The Hobbit: part 2!!
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