JAKE – ‘The Hobbit’ wraps up with a Middle-earth melee

‘The Hobbit’ wraps up with a Middle-earth meleeWith a sum total of 1,032 minutes, Peter Jacksonandrsquos six JRR Tolkien films have earned more than $5 billion worldwide. They have made New Zealand synonymous with Middle-earth.

And they have slaughtered enough orcs to constitute genocide.The sheer size of Jacksonandrsquos accomplishment — a majestic, fully realized fantasy world, from its lush landscapes down to its hairy feet — is enough to make Cecil B DeMille blush.

Across craggy mountaintops and through enchanted forests, he has set his hobbits, elves and wizards scampering to and fro, always under the threat of greed, ego and selfishness. More than anything, he has taken the stuff of fantasy seriously and rendered Tolkienandrsquos splendid creation with love.

Sadly, all of that was true after Jacksonandrsquos andldquoLord of the Ringsandrdquo trilogy. The subsequent andldquoHobbitandrdquo trio, which is now finally sputtering to an end with andldquoThe Battle of the Five Armies,andrdquo will inevitably go down as an unneeded, unloved gratuity, a trilogy, like the second andldquoStar Warsandrdquo run, to write off as overkill.

The magic, fleeting to start with, is mostly gone. andldquoThe Hobbitandrdquo might have been a nice little prequel add-on to andldquoThe Lord of the Rings,andrdquo but by dividing it into three movies, Jackson and company have drained the bookandrsquos dramatic momentumThe first, andldquoAn Unexpected Journey,andrdquo remains in oneandrsquos memory only for its clown-car introduction of the 13 dwarfs in an interminable dinner scene I fear is just now approaching dessert.

andldquoThe Desolation of Smaug,andrdquo for me the most successfully rollicking of these three, brought in (finally) another woman (Evangeline Lillyandrsquos elf Tauriel) and Benedict Cumberbatchandrsquos glorious dragon.What most distinguishes andldquoThe Battle of the Five Armiesandrdquo is its relative torpor After five films of relentless forward motion, its characters always in perpetual flight, Jacksonandrsquos andldquoHobbitandrdquo has, as if out of gas, plopped down at the Lonely Mountain.

Picking up with Smaugandrsquos fiery escape, andldquoFive Armiesandrdquo caps andldquoThe Hobbitandrdquo with a Middle-earth melee as all forces gather around EreborThe riches inside the mountain draw dwarfs (led by Richard Armitageandrsquos king Thorin), elves (ruled by Lee Paceandrsquos wonderfully snobbish Thran-duil), a smattering of humans (most notably Luke Evansandrsquos Bard) and, of course, huge armies of hulking orcs.All the commotion doesnandrsquot leave much room for Martin Freemanandrsquos Bilbo Baggins.

The funny, natural Freeman is one of the best things to hit Jacksonandrsquos overly earnest epic (itandrsquos an hour into andldquoFive Armiesandrdquo before the first chuckle), but he has often been crowded out by the avalanche of characters and CGI effects. Perhaps — and I know this could strike Jackson as incredulous — a battle scene need not be an hour long?The action, too, comes in Jacksonandrsquos preferred 48 frames-per-second (theater options will vary and the film is also in 3D), which, in the mission of greater clarity, yields a heightened artificiality.

Some believe this high-frame-rate is the future (James Cameron is a fan), but for now, itandrsquos the greatest evidence that some 15 years down a Hobbit hole — both pleasingly and frustratingly far from reality — have marred Jacksonandrsquos vision. Effects-only shots look fine, but live-action appears like a soap operaBut maybe itandrsquos time to admire Jackson for his obsessions.

He has spent a very long time in Middle-earth and his affection for it hasnandrsquot, for even 148th of a moment, ever been in doubt. It is his precious.

Two stars out of four.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman