One Film To End Them All
Well, it’s over. Farewell, Hobbitses, and thanks for all the fun. Last night I saw Borimir, Chlamydia, Moulinex, Fafnir, Ariel, Moomin, Thorax Oakenfold and Legoland go into battle for the last time, bringing together an end to a thirteen-year film cycle all the more remarkable for its consistency of tone. This time for ‘The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies’, they were pitted against each other in the smackdown of all time, and like all wars, it’s basically over a misunderstanding.
No concessions to recapping the past parts was made, bang, we were in there as Smug the Magic Dragon swept out of the skies to lay waste to Bluewater (all places in Middle Earth sound like shopping malls). Greedy Stephen Fry attempts to get away with a boat full of gold – bad idea. His weaselly sidekick later disguises himself as a woman to do the same thing, adopting a Monty Python Pepperpot voice – another bad idea. It’s down to a lone bowman and his son to bring down Benedict Cumberbatch, who has survived being dipped in liquid gold. You feel quite relieved knowing this is one film Cumberbatch can’t be in anymore.
This is the dark, action-packed (really a series of linked battles) that brings us up to the moment when Gandalf knocks on Bilbo’s shire door, and it’s a wonderful end to a simply incredible journey. Thorin’s men have taken control of Erebor and Thorin himself is going gold-bananas, rather as Bilbo did with the ring, the gold having been tainted ‘by the smell of dragon’.
As always with director Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh’s writing, there’s balance in all – no race is just one thing. So here’s more of gentle warrior-dwarf Aiden Turner – you can see that relationship is going to end badly, what with him being three feet shorter than her. It would never have lasted, too many doe-eyes between them, any babies they had would have looked like those velvet paintings. And there’s the mean-eyed elf, Lee Pace, probably not happy at having black eyebrows and blond hair, plus some unlikely rescues from the least-liked Dr Who and his absurd rabbit sleigh, and the Big Yin himself, unrecognisable under a red wig and whiskery tusks.
The colour palette is fittingly sombre, like a nobler, less slutty ‘Game of Thrones’. Everything is concentrated on the final clash – Saruman gets turned in a ghost-fight, ugly-ass giant bats attack, the orcs are even less photogenic than ever (one has a scythe in his stump), and one fabulous battle on a frozen lake recalls ‘Dracula, Prince of Darkness’.
One complaint – Peter Jackson’s experimental 48-frame rate digital film gives everything the look of pioneering video, exposing the odd bit of duff acting that reminded me of ‘Emergency Ward 10’ or mid-series Dr Who. It’s too sharp, too clean, and mercilessly bares performances to scrutiny that they can’t always stand. It also whacks a great big dividing line between CGI wide shots and small set-based scenes, making the film less of a whole.
There are the signature vertiginous spinning camera moves that make the 3D work beautifully, but also some deliciously quiet moments – one as Thorin ponders his place in history on the congealed golden lake, another as Gandalf takes 30 seconds to irritatingly scrape out his pipe. The film is also tighter than the others, with no time for rambling, and no endless bonding farewell. So, more of the same, yes, but a perfect fitting end to a staggering film series, entirely cut from a single cloth, unlike Harry Potter’s ‘Chuck Everything Into The Pool’ approach. Although how a film series this long could have dumped one of the oddest characters, Tom Bombadil, remains a mystery.
So, farewell LOTR, you did us proud and we thank you. ‘Game of Thrones’ can piss right off. This is the real thing.