Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth to eke out the last of his money-making franchise over the space of 144 minutes. Sadly, it’s a shameless cash-in. Thin on plot – but, the CGI is mind-blowingly good.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Lord of the Rings films, but the decision to extend The Hobbit out over three instalments always smacked of profiteering. Sadly this last film lives up to that promise, stretching 30 minutes’ worth of plot so thinly the story itself starts to disappear.
The film opens with the cliffhanger from The Desolation of Smaug. The Dwarves of Erebor have just learnt that nothing comes for free; by reclaiming the dragon’s hoard of gold they’ve accidentally woken and unleashed Smaug the dragon (wonderfully voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) onto the inhabitants of Lake-town. Good news for extreme barbecue lovers only.
Meanwhile the King of the Mountain, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), has developed dragon-sickness – which seems to entail becoming overly attached to piles of riches to the exclusion of honour and integrity. An analogy for the film itself, perhaps?.
He’s also gone a bit mad from lusting after the Akenstone, which Bilbo Baggins – played by the eminently watchable Martin Freeman – has already squirrelled away. Truly Bilbo must be the most light-fingered Hobbit in the whole of Middle Earth.
There are a few pleasing nods to the Lord of the Rings here, both thematically and literally. Although the script itself leaves something to be desired, the likes of Ian Mckellen, Cate Blanchett and Ian Holm are all predictably fantastic.
But once the fiery one has been dispatched, we’re left gearing up to the battle between orcs, elves, dwarves, humans and eagles. While there’s lots of sword-wielding excitement to be had, and more stunning CGI effects, this last stretch really drags before finally arriving at the epic conclusion.
Anyone who has seen the other Hobbit movies will want to round the trilogy off with this film – which, it has to be said, is not entirely without charm. Just don’t expect the same Lord of the Rings magic.