Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Directed by: Peter Jackson 
Cast: Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom Benedict Cumberbatch as the dragon, Richard Armitrage, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Stephen Fry, Billy Connolly 

Review by James Colt Harrison 

With the zillions of books sold to teen-agers around the world, kids over 5, seniors at Shady Pines, and precocious toddlers who can read at 6 months, there is hardly a person on earth who is not familiar with author J.R.R. Tokian’s Hobbit series. This is not to mention the two previous Peter Jackson spectacular films that emerged out of the gorgeous scenery of his native New Zealand. 

Alas, as all things come to a glorious end (sometimes), we are at the termination of the fine trilogy of Hobbit films with the dazzling 3D-IMAX eye-knocker The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. The realistic 3D cameras of Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie use the three dimensional process as a companion to the action and it never intrudes on the audience’s concentration. Occasionally, for old-time sakes, a sword or an animal horn protrudes out into the audience, but it is not done as a stunt. 

Somebody or some thing is always trying to ruin the Hobbit’s land and cities, and it is no different in this final episode. The most ferocious is the fire-breathing dragon, who has more Octane in his mouth than a  Union 76 Premium pump. Giving voice to the awful, nasty dragon is current hot actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Unfortunately, we never see him on screen but only hear his electronically enhanced, British-cultured voice. His stage training has come in handy, and he uses his voice as effectively as the classic film and stage star Richard Burton did in his day. 

If cities are to be destroyed, then we must actually see a city to have all the destruction reigned down on it. The artisans were busy building cutsey houses and churches in model form. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they look like---models. Not once do we get the feeling that it is at all real. Perhaps that was the director’s intention? After all, this is a fantasy. One thing that was real was actor Stephen Fry as the greedy mayor who absconds with all the gold in a flimsy row boat. Will he get his come-uppance? Greed has come down through the ages and doesn’t seem to have changed human nature. 

All the old favorites are here---Cate Blanchett as the ethereal Elf Queen Galadriel, Ian McKellan as the beloved wizard Gandalf, Martin Freeman as Bilbo, startlingly blonde Thranduil played by handsome Lee Pace, and the dashing Orlando Bloom as Legolas. Yes, the dwarves are unspeakably loveable as usual. But now there is less of them and more of the main characters so we get to know them a little better and can figure out who in the world they are in relation to each other. That was a bit of a puzzle in the other two films. 

Martin Freeman has come to the fore recently in some outstanding work on television in the Sherlock Holmes series with the previously mentioned Cumberbatch. Freeman has proven he can actually act and has moved beyond wearing funny Hobbit feet. 

There is no lack of action, destruction of old castles, crunching of dangerous ice ponds, with plenty of good old-fashioned eye gouging and being run through with a five-foot long sword! Everything is here to enthrall big and little boys at the local matinee IMAX theatre. Go see it. You’ll become an astonished teen-ager, too.

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Anonymous said...

It's a solid end to a trilogy that, quite frankly, needed one. Good review James.

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