Middle-Earth has been a home away from home for me for years.
I read and re-read all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books growing up. My childhood involved imagining what Hobbits and orcs would like.
In 2001, Peter Jackson gave the vast majority of Tolkien fans the gift of lifetime when ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ was released.
Thirteen years have passed since Jackson began his love affair with Middle-Earth but on Friday December 12 2014 it came to an end.
‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ is the final instalment in the Hobbit trilogy and despite the fact the vast majority of what happens in the film is not of Tolkien’s making it didn’t stop me from enjoying it.
But. And there’s a big but! My enthusiasm for Bilbo et al has reached its limit and going by ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’, so has Jackson’s.
As a stand alone film, I would not hesitate to give ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ four out of five but measured against the brilliance of what has gone before I thought it felt rushed, rough around the edges and lacking in the Peter Jackson magic I’d come to appreciate so much.
The movie picks up exactly where ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ left off.
The fire breathing beastie, Smaug, (Benedict Cumberbacth) devastates Laketown after learning Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and a band of dwarves have come to reclaim the gold laden Erebor for themselves.
There’s enough gold within Erebor to sink 1,000 Titanics and soon after Smaug is slain the would-be king of the dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield, begins to succumb to ‘gold sickness’.
Thorin (Richard Armitage) is not willing to share any of Erebor’s riches and as a result war breaks out between dwarves, men, elves, orcs and goblins.
As a devout disciple of the books I was intrigued as to how Jackson would transform a book of under 300 pages into three epically long movies.
I found the first two films hugely enjoyable but the third and final offering felt a little under cooked.
The CGI in ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ is amongst the worst I have seen in years.
There’s a scene about half way through when Scottish comedian-cum-thespian, Billy Connolly, turns up on the back of a rather large pig.
It’s inevitable that a film like this will depend heavily upon special effects but the character played by Billy Connelly looked so artificial that the gravity of his persona was completely wasted.
I found the special effects so horrendously poor at times that it became a constant distraction.
One of the things I loved most about ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy was it was never afraid to dress actors up in the most terrifying of costumes and make-up and let them wreak havoc as uruk-hai.
Lurtz, leader of the uruk-hai and the orc responsible for sticking around half a dozen arrows in Boromir (Sean Bean) in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ was an actor in a suit and it worked really well.
In ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ the two evil orcs are completely CGI driven and as the film reaches its end characters such as Azog and Bolg end up looking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles after a night on the sauce.
Richard Armitage is perhaps the best thing about ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’. He’s utterly brilliant as Thorin and the way in which he plays the character is tremendous.
Despite finding ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ a little disappointing and rushed it is a fitting end to the Middle-Earth saga nonetheless.
It most certainly could have been better but credit also has to go to Jackson for maintaining an authentic Tolkienesque feel throughout.
Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a visit to Middle-Earth but unless Jackson decides to go for a film adaptation of the ‘The Silmarillion’ then I am afraid it’ll have to be the Blu-Ray versions at home.
Instead of Paris, we’ll always have Middle-Earth but I think the time has come to say goodbye!
VERDICT: 3/5 - So, that’s a wrap folks. No more visits to Middle-Earth for Peter Jackson (I think) and despite the fact I found the film disappointing it didn’t stop me enjoying it. It’s a fond farewell to Bilbo and the gang but it’s by no stretch of the imagination the best. Martin Freeman is fantastic as Bilbo but the star of the show is Richard Armitage as dwarf king, Thorin. Some of the special effects are the amongst the worst I have seen in years and the less said about Billy Connolly’s incarnation (or indeed lack of it) the better. There are some entertaining scenes and Middle-Earth still looks beautiful but after 13 years and six movies I fear it’s time to say goodbye.