After six feature films and a butt-numbing total running time of over 17 hours, Peter Jackson's epically epic cinematic adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic Middle Earth sagas are finally complete with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. At least we think it's complete and, with the wistful end credit ballad "The Last Goodbye" closing out this third installment of the Hobbit trilogy, it sounds like Jackson means it. We hope.
Not that we haven't enjoyed these fantasy extravaganzas, but it was around the time of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King's fourth or fifth ending that it was apparent that Jackson doesn't know how to quit while he's ahead. It's also since clear that, like James Cameron and George Lucas, no one will say "no" to Pete, least of all himself; just because you can make a three-hour-plus remake of King Kong doesn't mean you should.
The same can be said of the "super-sized" three part Hobbit-athon. The only reason this one single book was stretched out into three movies was financial: why settle for two ticket prices when you have three? Sprawling New Zealand landscapes and never-ending battle sequences, no matter how beautifully photographed or niftily computer animated, all start to feel the same without a real narrative purpose behind them. Furthermore, grafted on subplots — like the elf/dwarf romance between Lost's Evangeline Lilly and Being Human's Aidan Turner (the hunkiest dwarf, like, ever) — feel just like they are: tacked on to pad the running time.
Sure, it's always great to see Ian McKellen in full wizard drag, and who could pass up Cate Blanchett going all J-horror on some bad guys. But this adventure of "there and back again" surely would have played better if Jackson and company hadn't gone "back again" so many times.
MD Rating: C+
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is now available on DVD and Blu-ray:
Review by Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: The Queer Online Database and the Out Movie Guide.