Hoo boy! I can't believe that I've waited so long to comment on this.
As I'm sure most of you have picked up on the third and final Hobbit movie was released last December and you can bet that I was giddy at the prospect of getting a viewing in. Even with my passion for literature I've found that I have surprisingly little interest in fantasy at large. In fact, the only two fantasy series I've ever actually gone out of my way to read would be Tolkien's work and Conan. So when I take my dad hostage to try and get into the theater for something, which is once in a blue moon, that should say something.
There are some spoilers ahead, but try not to worry. This won't be like some other of the reviews I've done which cover every nook and cranny. I mean, if you don't know the basic outline of this story, ya'll need to pick up a book... Anyway, this is more a collection of my thoughts on what I liked and didn't like rather than a step by step review.
A lot of people were down on the first movie for being supposedly slow and having little going on. I was one of those few that felt immersed and enjoyed almost every minute of it, but wow this last movie makes up for whatever lack of action the first movie had!
I mean... wow! I honestly can't think of another movie with more action than this. I'd argue that the majority of the screen time is taken up with swords clashing and arrows twanging. And it's good action, not the fluffy incomprehensible stuff you get with some movies. Ah, but don't be fooled! This is no mindless action romp. This movie has all the emotional impact and depth of its predecessors.
Thorin has had a steadily building arc, starting with him being tough at first but showing that he had heart and dignity about him but began to be followed by a decline once they enter the shadow of the mountain. It is beautifully demonstrated how the lust for gold gets a hold of him and twists his once noble nature to one of blind, bitter greed. The imagery and sound that accompanies him on these twists in turns in this movie are really something to behold and there is never a dull moment.
I've gotta praise the handling of the people of Lake Town, as neither the original book or Rankin Bass movie really seemed to capture the true sense of desperation these people feel after their town is destroyed. Okay, not totally fair, as the book did a good job, but wow does this movie strike home. It doesn't feel like so many bad disaster movies where buildings crumble and people get crushed. Nope! Here it actually feels like people who are afraid and devastated, wondering where they'll find food and shelter before the onset of winter takes its toll. It really does feel like a band of refugees in the wake of a disaster.
Although it doesn't technically contribute to the story, a few of the things Bard tends to with the people does add another layer of reality to the atmosphere. We see him giving orders, having people scavenge supplies from the floating wreckage or trying to tend to the injured, of which there are plenty. Maybe it's just me, but I really felt like jumping in and lending a hand to the poor folks. Good work director team! :)
Because lots of other things are taking place here, we actually don't get to see nearly as much of the dwarves as in the prior two movies. I did however find it mildly amusing that Bombur didn't get a single speaking line after all three movies. ... Huh. Should I be sad that I can name and identify almost all of the dwarves on sight? Man, I need to get a girlfriend...
Where was I? Ah, and of course Bilbo is still wonderfully portrayed and doing his best to work behind the scenes to avert upcoming disaster. Here they keep darned close to the book, as Bilbo has the Arken Stone but doesn't yet give it to Thorin as he sees the greed corrupting his friend and debates what to do about it.
The tension is built to a beautiful climax when it finally comes to a head. Thorin really does come to the point where you'd be worried sitting in a room with him and are afraid to speak for fear of throwing him into a rage. He becomes apathetic and paranoid, to the point where you could see yourself really setting yourself against him.
There is a brief little scene however that I really did appreciate and helped relieve some of the tension while also adding more character. When Thorin catches Bilbo peering at something he at first assumes he is hiding something of value, but in reality it is just a small nut that the hobbit pilfered from Bjorn's place that he plans on planting in his garden back home. For just a few minutes Thorin's haze fades as he remembers the simple charms of life and we really see the two connect. Sure, it's a quick little thing, but it was really nice to see. :)
One thing I was wondering about in regards to that whole Five Armies thing is that Bard was supposed to lead an army of men. Seeing as how his faction consisted of a bunch of tired fishermen armed with gaffing hooks and gutting knives I was curious to see how that would work out, since that's more of a rabble than an army. Yet they actually make it work rather well. Although not a conventional battle group Jackson certainly makes them seem like a frightened but determined group ready to do what they have to in order to preserve their families. You really do get to feel for these folks. And my heart leapt when the women actually picked up arms and went to go kick some orc arse rather than cower and await death. You go girls! Woot woot!
Overall actually I'm quite surprised at the rather low scale of the fight, in regards to the size of most of the armies involved. Dain of the Iron Hills arrives not with an army either, but what looks more like a company of one hundred and thirty guys. Granted, these boys are armed to the teeth and work like a well oiled machine, but there's just so few of 'em! Thranduil doesn't exactly bring a giant contingent either.
Azog on the other hand... Wow, this guy pulls out all the stops. Say what you want about him, he knows how to organize a war party and work tactics! I'm actually impressed at the strategy and maneuvering he employed. For example, to help split up the loose alignment of elves, dwarves and men Azog sends a large chunk of his force into Dale where the families of the fishermen have taken shelter, forcing them to run off and intercept them, leaving the elves and dwarves to deal with the rest of the orcs.
Divide and conquer. Azog certainly makes a darned good commander. And yeah, he has a huge advantage in numbers, not to mention he takes the other guys by surprise with some very cunning troop movements. And the trolls with catapults on their backs? Now that's just plain cool! What else could you ask for?
And if you happen to be a hard core traditionalist who shrieks in indignation at the slightest variation from the original narrative, then you might actually get a kick out of the ending. We actually get some decent closure with Bilbo returning to Hobbiton. If you haven't read the book, then you probably don't know that since he was away for so long his dear loving neighbor's assumed he was dead and auctioned off all of his stuff just as he waltzed back home. Hoo boy, if there was ever a bad home reception that was it!
I remember actually being in the theater seeing him back in his old neighborhood and said aloud "Are they really going to... Oh my gosh, they are! We're gonna see Bilbo's house getting looted!" I was rather amused that they took the time to show us that bit, heh.
Ian McKellen, the actor of Gandalf, poor guy, must be exhausted. The dude has been breaking his back with these movies not to mention the last X-Men movie. He's gotta be feeling the need for a vacation. The fellow has certainly earned it! He of course was nothing but superb in this flick, bringing us Gandalf like no one else can. :)
I think the only thing that wasn't actually resolved was the disappearance of Thorin's father, Thrain. I could be wrong, so please correct me if I err, but I do believe that Thrain was actually being held prisoner by the Necromancer at Dol-Guldur and driven half mad. It might be in the deleted scenes, although I somehow doubt it. Of course, no one is going to be bothered by that besides weirdos like me who know the story inside and out, so I'm not exactly upset over it.
I do wanna call out the only major problem that I found in Desolation which made me pause when it came to a head in this movie. The whole "dragon's can only be killed by a windlance" thing always bothered me. It felt unnecessary and kind of shoved in, along with changing the history of the black arrow to have been a special dwarven crafted weapon. Apparently Balin was full of it when he said there was no other way to kill a dragon! Cuz guess what, spoiler warning, the windlance crossbow doesn't get used. Good riddance to the thing. Nobody wanted it anyway.
And I think that's about it! I had a lot of fun and will not hesitate a moment to purchase it when it comes out on DVD. But it is well worth watching in theaters. So hustle up and go watch! :D