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***MOSTLY-SPOILER-FREE IMPRESSIONS OF:
• THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES -
Hmm... Well, they did take us there, and back again. Overall, I think 2014 has been a rather disappointing year for action/adventure, and sci-fi/fantasy cinema, with few exceptions. The anticipation may have been there, to varying degrees, but the actual experiences have been found wanting, in my opinion. This final chapter of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy does manage to provide some fun thrills, including tolerable deviations from Tolkien canon as well as reasonably faithful extrapolations. And some scenes do evoke heartfelt emotion. But I must say that the pacing, and the editing is, at times, atrocious. Astoundingly bad. If you thought they quickly dispensed with the Jabba The Hutt/Han Solo storyline at the start of 1983's STAR WARS: THE RETURN OF THE JEDI, this movie tops that sin with the early, swift, and perfunctory dismissal of the great dragon, Smaug.
The rest of the film walks a line between finishing up the story of Bilbo and the dwarves (including the material Jackson decided to make up on his own), and deliberately and forcefully foreshadowing what we've already seen in the far superior Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Admittedly, some of the linking explanations are solid, and logical.
Howard Shore's musical score often sinks to the level of "Mickey Mousing," the unflattering Old Hollywood term for music used over-abundantly to manipulate the feelings of the audience, or to spell out the action depicted on screen.
The performances by Martin Freeman, and Richard Armitage are good, if not better than in the previous installments. Of course, it's a rush to see the familiar faces of Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm (in a cameo) and Cate Blanchett. Billy Connolly is instantly recognizable, but shamefully wasted (no fault of the filmmaker as it corresponds to the novel, but then, Jackson was taking such liberties anyway).
My greatest misgivings have to do with the increased proliferation of green-screen effects and locations. It's gotten too obvious. And I think that, with the hyper-realism of digital effects (when properly utilized), and the growing dependence upon these via green screen fill-it-in-later backdrops, many in the audience are becoming all too aware of the digital fakery. The irony in overlooking this is in the need to employ our imaginations once again, accepting how fake something looks, just as in the pre-digital era, in spite of these modern movie "miracles." My guess is that filmmakers today, in their haste to dazzle, are getting a bit sloppy, or frugal, and this is most evident when they reach beyond their grasp for the next mind-blowing special effect sequence or panoramic environments. This is a quibble, granted. No cause for rioting.
Anyway, it's over now. I think.
And, despite my personal gripes and disappointment, I am still appreciative of the monumental achievement by Peter Jackson and his faithful and talented cohorts. With these two Middle Earth trilogies, they have filmed the "unfilmable." Sure, the quality dipped below the line on occasion. But only on occasion, and that's certainly forgivable. Most of the world's Tolkien fans never expected to ever see the cinematic adaptation of their beloved and classic literature so spectacularly fulfilled. And, in the end, that is something truly--- prrrreciousssss.
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