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Hobbit, The: The Battle of the Five Armies (3D)


Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Lee Pace, Aidan Turner, Billy Connelly, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugo Weaving

Director: Peter Jackson

As imposing in scale as you'd expect from Jackson's previous five films from Tolkien's books, this concluding chapter is almost all action, the only (just slightly lacklustre) drama centring on the greed for the dragon's gold which, despite the best efforts of Bilbo Baggins the hobbit (Freeman, absurdly perfect casting) consumes the dwarves' leader, Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage), much as the power of the Ring has an iron grip on its holder.

Armitage's performance is exactly what the story requires, although it's Freeman who brings a welcome buzz of humanity to proceedings that the rest of the characters lack.

As far as the action, efficiently shot on a grand scale, is concerned, the problem is that its highpoint comes at the beginning of the film, with Smaug's attack on Laketown, which becomes a city on fire as its inhabitants, led by Bard the bowman (Evans) attempt to flee the incendiary bombardment in boats. It's a terrific sequence, making the later climax, as the armies - orcs (2), men, elves and dwarves - converge on Thorin's new Stronghold, seem routine by comparison; although there's a scary sequence within it following a duel on ice.

All the familiar characters are back. including Legolas the elf (Bloom, whose looks haven't changed a bit throughout the entire series), McKellen's Gandalf, and even Christopher Lee's Saruman, which finds the actor as charnel-voiced and authoritative as ever at 92 - and here on the side of the good guys.

And it's nice that Jackson doesn't end with the conflict, but sticks to the author's finale, as Bilbo returns to Bag End and a bitter-sweet homecoming that segues nicely into the beginning of the Rings trilogy to follow.

David Quinlan

USA/New Zealand 2014. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by deluxe.
144 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 07 Dec 2014