Copyright © 2014 by Warner Bros. Pictures
The concluding chapter sees an infuriated Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) burning Lake-town to the ground. Bard (Luke Evans) escapes from imprisonment and efficaciously kills the dragon with the last black arrow. He is appointed as the town’s new Master and directs his people to the remains of Dale for shelter. Fili (Dean O’Gorman), Kili (Aidan Turner), Óin (John Callen) and Bofur (James Nesbitt) proceed to rejoin with the rest of the Dwarves at Lonely Mountain while Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) go in search of answers in Mount Gundabad. They unearth a secondary Orc army advancing Lonely Mountain which will be combining with Azog’s (Manu Bennett) forces. Back in Erebor, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) who has been plagued with ‘dragon sickness’ refuses to share any of his prized belongings with either the Men or Elves and risks an all-out war between Bard’s loyal followers and Thranduil’s (Lee Pace) vast military.
How the mighty have fallen! I am not only talking about both Orc armies succumbing to an overlong finale that lasts almost an hour but the diminished reputation of a once sterling trilogy. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ revived a terminal genre, satisfied ardent fans, impressed regular-going movie folk and appeared in many critics’ list as among the best trilogies ever to grace the silver screen. Peter Jackson’s name will be etched (mostly) for this monumental feat.
Alas, if only the latest and (presumably) last installment would have ended on a high. Just as I feared, everything about it reeks on a pecuniary level and a sorry excuse for another bladder-testing time in the multiplexes (the shortest in the series but it is still two hours too long). You get the feeling that Jackson and his co-writers are running out of material when dialogues are frequently repeated or similar lines reiterated in slow motion.
We know Thorin has ‘dragon sickness’ or in a more identifiable term, he is consumed by greed (with an endless supply of all things shiny, who would not?) but do we really need to be reminded that much of his dilemma? Fortunately, Armitage’s grasp and understanding of the character ensure Thorin’s heroic efforts in the earlier films are not forgotten by his selfish actions. Quite obviously the most fleshed out, Thorin‘s arc stands as the sole contributor for any semblance to Jackson’s 2000s hits.
There are moments when Evans and Pace looked like they will be given more to do (the former’s rousing battle with Smaug is intense and affecting rivalled only by the majesty of Galadriel – Cate Blanchett, Elrond – Hugo Weaving and Saruman – Christopher Lee’s daring rescue mission) but as we reach the end’s beginning, they are dwarfed in the exhaustive combat (still a technical accomplishment nonetheless) which is alright if it is any other production.
Not if Jackson is helming a treasured franchise. Major players from the likes of Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Legolas and Tauriel are reduced to cardboard characters, the unworkable interspecies romance so underplayed that when it is time for the sniffles, even Howard Shore’s swelling score cannot cut it and expanding Ryan Gage’s Alfrid merely as a comic relief screams of dire desperation. Retaining Stephen Fry could have provided Bard with some needed opposition as the new Master of Lake-town.
And tension seems to be a missing component in every aspect of this expensive and expansive picture. The warring factions of Elves, Dwarves, Men, Orcs and Beasts collide in Dale for the big showdown but it is the individual fights from Legolas and Thorin defeating the two formidable Orcs that pack a larger punch. Peter, why oh why? After all those hard-fought battles over legal disputes which nearly derailed the project, is this the way to go, up in flames rather than with a bang?
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images