Sunday, March 22, 2015

Video review: "The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies"

With the final film in the “Hobbit” trilogy, the Tolkien train has finally rumbled to its last cinematic stop -- assuming, that is, that director Peter Jackson & Co. aren’t intending to turn the barely readable “The Silmarillion” into a 57-part television series.

(Shhh… don’t give them ideas.)

I’ve appreciated the scope and splendor of this 13-year enterprise to turn one of my most beloved literary touchstones into movies that have been, by and large, magical. But if I could give a two-word review of “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies,” it would be “too much.”

There are too many secondary characters and side plots, most of them greatly expanded from things barely whispered at in author J.R.R. Tolkien’s slender tome -- or simply invented out of whole cloth by the filmmakers.

As you can guess from the title, the tale of a band of dwarves trying to reclaim their mountain kingdom from a dragon usurper ends with a massive war wherein the various races of Middle-earth squabble over the spoils. Humble hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is literally caught in the middle, and his choices have an outsized effect on the course of history.

Other key players include Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), heir to the dwarven throne and ensorcelled by the foul magic of the dragon’s gold; Gandalf (Ian McKellen), wise wizard and counselor to the adventurers; Bard (Luke Evans), the stout warrior who brings down the beast; Thranduil (Lee Pace), the headstrong elven monarch; Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Thranduil’s son and carryover from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy; Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), a totally invented and unnecessary female elf warrior; and Azog (Manu Bunnett), the fearsome albino orc leader.

The battle scenes are epic in scope, but the gentle story of a hobbit’s journey there and back again gets swallowed.

Bonus features consist of five making-of featurettes: “Recruiting the Five Armies,” “Completing Middle-earth,” “The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes,” “The Last Goodbye Music Video” and “New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 3.”

As with the previous two movies, in a few months they will release a special extended version of “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies” with an expanded cut of the film and better extras. Though what they could possibly add to this overstuffed meal, I can’t imagine.



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