So, the end is in sight. In High Frame Resolution and in 3D as well.
On the HFR – I am not convinced as while the image is sharper, it also seems to make everything look more fake. As to the 3D, its rare I notice 3D after the first few minutes (except Hercules – well done the Rock!) and while there are some definite “3D moments”, I forgot about it for most of the film.
Technically, the film is amazing and beautiful after a fashion. It looks almost more computer game than live action, which is both an achievement and a disappointment.
As a film, on a level other than as a visual (and audio) spectacular, the third Hobbit film feels pretty flat. Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins does what he can with a character cast adrift from anything that might make him likeable.. The many dwarves (now basically interchangeable apart from the tall one and the handsome one) likewise tend to talk at rather than with others, sometimes in slow motion and with extra bass for added tedium. Gandalf (Ian McKellan), away for a bit but back for the final battle, doesn’t really have a lot to say or do either, though this probably has more to with the source material than a determination to sideline him The Bowman, trying to save the town from the Desolation of Smaug, becomes the main hero of the first part of the film and then basically vanishes once the Elves arrive and the five armies start battling each other – presumably he ends up happily with his family rather than slain by the evil hordes.
Besides the characters cast adrift, there are the missteps too: the snivelling lackey in the second film becomes the wildly unfunny comic relief in this film and it’s a complete mystery why he seems to have more screen time than… well, anyone. Billy Connelly shows up as a shouty dwarf, and what should be an amusingly unhinged turn as a belligerent general is obscured by some glaringly disturbing CGI that does obscene and unforgivable things to the man’s face. And some cameos from the Lord of the Rings series hint at a better story elsewhere, and leave taking that with them.
But then, the film really is about fighting and there is a lot of that. Its all amazingly done, with swirling shots and incredible backdrops and death defying acrobatics and it all feels incredibly fake and almost completely unengaging, unlike the battles in Return of the King. Legolas, looking older than ever, gets to do more ridiculously naff jumpy leapy things and is never in any real danger even though his presence dominates a lot of the fighting scenes. I have to admit that I liked the big showdown between the big bad and the big (well, ish) good, though I had hoped it would have ended before it did and in a less… conventional fashion – probably again a book issue rather than a fault of the writers.
Overall, the film is incredible, amazing, and utterly underwhelming. I thought there may have been a smattering of applause once the film concluded, as there sometimes is for these “event” films, but people just packed up and wandered off, no one seeming too blown away by what they had seen. As one person said to me afterwards, “It has ended and I felt I had to see them all”. And it did kind of feel that way too, more as a chore than a real pleasure. Which is a total shame. No need to buy these on DVD – I would rather go back to the Lord of the Rings methinks and remember the glory days.
Verdict: The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies was the ending and thank heaven for that. Remarkable in so many ways and yet not really a particularly enjoyable film, there are flashes of brilliance and excitement that are quickly buried beneath layers of CGI and the underlying feeling that the writers just wanted to get it finished and have finally got there. 3 Armies out of 5.