And so, having crossed streams, climbed mountains and encountered all manner of exotic beasts including orcs, dwarves and dragons, Hobbit Bilbo Baggins finally comes to the end of his epic journey.
When I say epic I really mean it, because filmmaker Peter Jackson has taken what is a modestly slim book and contrived to turn it into a trilogy of films of massive proportions. Whether or not the subject matter really needs to be stretched out this much really depends on how much you love the source material; all wizards, elves, magical kingdoms and the battle between good and evil.
This final film takes up the story where the second instalment left off – as the dragon awoken by Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves heads off to destroy lake-town. It’s an impressive and explosive opening and sets up the action as a number of different armies converge on the mountain Kingdom of Erebor to exploit the heaps of treasure it contains. Dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), suffering from dragon-sickness is in no mood to bargain with anyone and so rebuffs both the human refugees from lake-town and the elves who come to parley. A brilliant Billy Connolly arrives as the belligerent leader of another band of dwarves, but they all prove to be no match for the legions of Orcs sent by the dark Lord Sauron.
So, the film ends in one almighty (and rather long) battle, beautifully choreographed and really tense, but here’s the thing – between that explosive, pyrotechnical opening and the dark, all-action finale, there’s really very little in between. Martin Freeman is as good as ever, as are the band of dwarves, Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Cate Blanchett in one pivotal scene as Galadriel, but it’s like a three course meal with a stupendous starter, delicious dessert and a rather bland main course. There’s also far less humour than the first two parts of the series and so the darkness tends to put a downer on proceedings.
So, in retrospect, is The Hobbit as good as the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Well, the special effects have definitely got better as each film has been made, but special effects alone do not a good trilogy make.
The Hobbit remains what it always was; a rather slim book, very modest beside its big brother LOTR. It’s really three films of moments and maybe just one film with a shorter running time would have brought those moments closer together and made for a more satisfying experience.