Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mikael Persbrandt, Sylvester McCoy, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, John Bell, Peggy Nesbitt, Mary Nesbitt, Manu Bennett, John Tui, Billy Connolly, Mark Mitchinson, Kelly Kilgour, Sarah Peirse, Nick Blake, Simon London, Conan Stevens, Allan Smith, Miranda Harcourt, Thomasin McKenzie, Erin Banks, Brian Hotter, Timothy Bartlett, Merv Smith, Martin Kwok
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, based on a novel by J.R.R. Tolkien
Directed by: Peter Jackson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Running Time: 144
Date: 12/19/2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Hard 'Hobbit' to Break

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Thus it ends, and as the title suggests, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is mostly just a long battle. As a standalone movie, it's not terribly interesting, but as the conclusion of the three-part, nearly eight-hour Hobbit, it's most welcome.

See also: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

There are two real problems with The Hobbit, and neither have much to do with the experience of watching the movie itself.

The first is that it is compared unfavorably to Jackson's three-part Oscar-winning epic The Lord of the Rings. For many fans, it's too little, too late.

The second is that, while The Lord of the Rings consisted of three films made from three books, The Hobbit splits one book into three movies. The Lord of the Rings had natural stopping points, and The Hobbit does not.

Not to mention that fans smelled a rat, assuming that the decision to make three films was more financial than creative. Many have felt cheated rather than entertained. However, now the three can be one.

Plus, Jackson has come a long way since The Lord of the Rings. His direction here feels both more relaxed and more confident. In a big battlefield, he has learned exactly where to place his camera, clearly showing both space and movement. The entire movie has a fluid, kinetic flow.

It's also more lightweight and more fun. Martin Freeman is a goofy, lovable Bilbo Baggins, and he has a warm relationship with Ian McKellen's Gandalf. In this movie, after all is said and done, the two friends just sit quietly for a moment. The moment builds up to a laugh, but it suggests a genuine bond and a genuine friendship.

Comedian Billy Connolly also joins the cast as Dain, the burly, brusque dwarf cousin of Thorin (Richard Armitage).

And while many have complained about the movie's tacked-on romance between the dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) and the elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), it adds a bit of old-fashioned movie entertainment, and a nice break from the battle.

The dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is here, too, and the movie begins, of course, with his demise, so that his treasure chamber is open to all comers. That's where the battle of the five armies comes in, as each wishes to lay claim to the treasure.

If you didn't know that and you haven't seen the first two Hobbit films, don't bother starting with this one. However, if you can forgive all the behind-the-scenes nonsense and focus on the completed movie, then it can be a joyous, rousing adventure for the ages.

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