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Review: ‘The Hobbit’ bows out with a slow-footed bang |

Review: ‘The Hobbit’ bows out with a slow-footed bang

| Tuesday, December 16, 2014 9:00 p.m
Martin Freeman stars in 'The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies.'
In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Luke Evans appears in a scene from 'The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies.' (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Mark Pokorny)
In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellen appear in a scene from 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.' (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)
In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Orlando Bloom, left, and Evangeline Lilly appear in a scene from 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.' (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Mark Pokorny)

Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” sends this not-really-a-trilogy off in style. That means stuffing in everything the fans want, or that Jackson thinks the fans want.

So, “Battle” is bookended by two epic fights — the duel to the death with the dragon Smaug, and the “Five Armies” finale. There is death and destruction, forbidden love and treasure, honor and slaughter.

And Jackson, who has messed with this adaptation even more than he did “Lord of the Rings,” hedges his bets. His invented love story between the elvish Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and the dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) still doesn’t work. So, he brings in Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom and Christopher Lee, reprising their characters from “Rings,” as a way to anticipate the Middle-earth epic that follows.

We get sentimental moments with most characters, often in the middle of the pitched battle that is the climax of this film, curtain calls to engender warm memories from the faithful.

And we’re treated to a trio of stunning special-effects set pieces. The first is Smaug’s fire-breathing assault on Lake-town, torched to the water-line before the hero Bard (Luke Evans) can fell the beast. Then, there’s a struggle to save the ever-imprisoned Gandalf (Ian McKellen), one that involves a battle with the ghosts of warriors past.

Finally, there’s a sword fight on the ice, a grim and drawn-out clash between a monstrous orc and Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the greedy and increasingly paranoid King under the Lonely Mountain.

“Five Armies” is funnier than the other Hobbit movies, with zingers from the cowardly ruler of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) and sight gags that often involve some hapless orc being killed in a creative way.

“The Hobbit” has never overcome the handicaps of its plot and casting. Jackson made some of the dwarves characters Snow White would adore, and others look like hirsute alumni of heavy-metal bands. None of them popped off the screen the way the players did in “Lord of the Rings.” The one classic hero here is Bard, the dragon slayer, and he has too little to do.

As hobbit Bilbo Baggins, Martin Freeman, the marvelous Dr. Watson on TV’s “Sherlock,” never seems proportionally right as a “halfling,” not the way Elijah Wood did in the “Rings” cycle.

It’s the best film of this trilogy, but truthfully, none of the “Hobbits” has been better than middling “Hunger Games” or “Harry Potter” installments.

Roger Moore reviews movies for Tribune News Service.

Categories: Movies TV
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