(US/New Zealand - 2014)
Directed by Peter Jackson. Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro. Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Aidan Turner, Stephen Fry, Billy Connolly, Sylvester McCoy, James Nesbitt, Jed Brophy, Stephen Hunter, Ryan Gage, Manu Bennett, John Tui, Mikael Persbrandt. (PG-13, 143 mins)
"One Last Time" seems to be the resounding theme throughout this final chapter in the HOBBIT trilogy as well as in its advertising. The films in Peter Jackson's original 2001-2003 LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy stand--especially in their extended editions--among the most monumental achievements in all of cinema. But by splitting J.R.R. Tolkien's relatively light and quick-reading Hobbit into another colossal, epic trilogy and insisting on shooting them in the absurd 48 fps "high frame rate," a format that makes everything look like a live TV broadcast, really only works for expansive exterior shots and is preferred by no one with a name other than "Peter Jackson," Jackson seems guided more by hubris and self-indulgence than anything. The Hobbit isn't meant to be as huge as The Lord of the Rings. It's a smaller, more brisk story and by importing elements of Tolkien's The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, bringing Orlando Bloom back to play Legolas, a character not even present in Tolkien's novel, and even going so far as to invent his own entirely new character--the elf Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly--and granting her as much, if not more plot and screen time than the key principals, Jackson is only demonstrating that he doesn't know when or where to stop. It's great that Jackson loves Tolkien so much, but where his LOTR trilogy ranks with the original 1977-1983 STAR WARS trilogy, his bloated, three-part HOBBIT, while well-acted and enjoyable on its own terms, is his STAR WARS: EPISODE I-III, and like George Lucas, he's surrounded by yes-men and basically at the point where he's too rich and powerful for anyone to tell him "no." When Jackson made the original LOTR trilogy, he had an insane ambition and something to prove. Remove that and the HOBBIT trilogy feels like little more than an extended victory lap.