Its official – The Hobbit trilogy has finally come to a conclusion; and a spectacular conclusion it was, culminating in what just might have been the best battle on the big screen I’ve ever seen.
The movie starts where we last left our unlikely company; with Smaug flying towards the defenseless Lake-town wreathed in flame and ready to cause some havoc. Buildabear Crumplesnout is phenomenal once again as Smaug, and each line is delivered with even more power and dread than before. Luke Evans makes a strong return as Bard the Bowman, and the perfect casting had me amazed at times with how much he embodied the spirit of Bard the Bowman from the 1977 original.
Despite the strong start at Lake-town, the first few scenes following have a definite filler feel. More characters that weren’t in the original story are introduced, we are reminded about the strange love between Tauriel and Kili, and there is a surprising and almost comically slapped together fight sequence with the least-likely characters imaginable; though it still manages to be quite entertaining. Right off the bat, however, you can tell that director Peter Jackson and company have finally gotten the atmosphere and feeling right; third times a charm. After the first half hour I couldn’t help but smile; it finally felt like I was watching something worthy of Tolkien’s universe.
While the movie has more “Lord of the Rings-y” shots, camera work, and atmosphere (which could be a plus or minus depending your preference), The Hobbit still seems to have more CGI than “The Polar Express.” Since the first iteration, the trilogy’s dependency on computer graphics has hurt my soul while watching. Gone are the phenomenal costume jobs and terrifying realness and gravity of the old orcs and goblins. While the effects and computer graphics are amazing, it will never hold the same weight as the physical presence of The Lord of the Rings enemies. Gone are the days of Amon Hen.
While the CGI will most likely bother you, all is forgiven thanks to stellar acting all around; you know you’ve done well when Legolas is the least interesting character in the whole film. The dwarves are charming as ever, Richard Armitage plays a great internally conflicted Thorin, and Lee Pace plays a slimy yet oddly intoxicating Thandruil (you know, Legolas’ dad – that really pretty elf king guy). Martin Freeman once again delivers a fantastic Bilbo, though his go-to confused and in disbelief/denial face begins to grow old nearing the second hour. Besides that quirk, he is lovable and witty as always.
Finally, the creme dela creme, the actual battle of the five armies, was absolutely stunning. A departure from the typical Lord of the Rings “too-fast-to-see-whats-happening” shots, the fighting was clear, adrenaline pumping, and even let me forget about all the CGI that was flashing before my eyes. Some truly amazing set pieces come from this fight, and I found myself just beaming at the action. I hadn’t felt such a rush since Helm’s Deep. For this scene alone, I urge even small fans of Tolkien and/or the Lord of the Rings movies to check it out in theaters; it just won’t be the same at home.
Other mentionables include the important real life themes of greed, addiction, pride, and true friendship that are thoughtfully incorporated into the film, an awesome moment of female empowerment I can’t give away, and a fun side “villain” that serves successfully as comedic relief from the increasingly dark atmosphere.
To have this trilogy wrap up was like saying goodbye to a good friend. Not an inseparable friend like the Lord of the Rings, but a good one. Jackson manages to wrap it up in a tidy bow, and the ending was simply nostalgic and emotional. For fourteen years we have had the pleasure of living in Tolkien’s world, and it will always be a pleasure to go there and back again.