A fitting conclusion to Jackson’s prequel trilogy and a triumphant adieu to Middle-earth. Now complete, The Hobbit stands as a worthy successor to The Lord Of The Rings, albeit one that never quite emerges from its shadow.
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Like Agatha Christie’s detective novels, there would appear little in the way of aesthetic – as opposed to technological – progression; having set the tone so definitively at the outset, each film delivered exactly what it promised.
The 144-minute running time showcases Jackson's worst tendencies: eons-long battle scenes, sloppy and abrupt resolutions, portentous romances, off-rhythm comic timing, and, newly in this case, patience-testing fan service.
Jackson's efforts have peaked and troughed, but this final chapter will undoubtedly satisfy fans, and kindle a sense of sadness as this hobbit's tale finally draws to a close.
These films, and Tolkien's entire oeuvre, are most affecting in their depictions of friendship, and the performances here represent plutonic male intimacy in convincing, often moving ways.
If none of the Hobbit films resonate with "Rings'" mythic grandeur, it’s hard not to marvel at Jackson’s facility with these characters and this world, which he seems to know as well as John Ford knew his Monument Valley, and to which he here bids an elegiac adieu.
The trouble is that Jackson can’t make it mean very much: when every life on Middle Earth is seemingly at stake, few individually grab our attention.
The final stretch of The Battle of the Five Armies possesses a warm, amiable, sometimes rueful mood that proves ingratiating and manages to magnify the good and minimize the bad of the trilogy.
Luckily, Jackson’s singular talent for massive-scale mayhem hasn’t deserted him, and the hour-long smackdown that crowns the film gives him ample opportunities to indulge it.