And so Peter Jackson's epically-padded adaptation of a 300-page children's book into three two-and-a-half hour films comes to end with a concluding chapter that is essentially (as the title suggests) one giant battle.
And, yet, oddly, I found The Battle Of The Five Armies the easiest of the trilogy to sit through, quite possibly because it was just vignette-after-vignette of a massive fantasy battle.
It still suffered from dreadful sub-plot bloat:
- Thorin's "dragon sickness" - which started off as fascinating character development - got worse and worse until he had a fever-vision and then it suddenly got better;
- Any scene with Alfrid, the right-hand man of the Master Of Laketown, was just a waste of celluloid;
- Billy Connolly's Dain was a potentially interesting - if stereotypical Scottish - dwarf to throw into the mix, but then he disappeared from the action;
- Whatever happened to the giant wormy-things that burst out of the ground and were never seen again?
- What was the point of showing Beorn being parachuted into the battle if we never saw him again?
- etc etc
The opening pre-credit sequence - the death of Smaug - should have been the finale of The Desolation Of Smaug and I really could have done without Peter Jackson's obsession with Legolas and his physics-defying stunts.
Moments like this tend to bring home the fact that you're just watching what amounts to someone else playing a very expensive video game - and sometimes the graphics aren't even that good.
Thankfully the misty, blur-o-vision that was so prevalent in the trailers doesn't seep in that often in the actual movie.
As much as I enjoyed the variety of fantasy races and monsters clashing, jumping around, killing each other and so on, for me, the most interesting part came with Bilbo's return to The Shire to find all his property being auctioned off - I could have watched more of that!
The hobbits are the most unique creatures in Tolkien's work and therefore the most interesting as they don't seem to fit comfortably with the rough-and-ready rest of Middle- Earth. That's why, if you're going to pad out a story entitled The Hobbit, I feel there ought to be more about hobbits!
Much like the Star Wars prequels, I'm sure I'll come round to liking these three movies eventually, but they're never going to come close to Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings, which is a shame.
You have to wonder if The Hobbit might have been better treated as a single movie or maybe two, without all the spurious padding. The book has stood the test of time without anyone feeling the need to write additional chapters and blow it out to the size of Lord Of The Rings, so perhaps there's a lesson there.