Reviewing any chunk of Peter Jackson's Tolkien-flavored fantasy-combat-simulation project is like reviewing some holiday party or a possibly obligatory family get-together. You know whether you're going, you know who you'll see there, and you know that you'll either grit through it and be glad when it's over, or you'll lose yourself in it and miss the ritual when it's gone.
Either way, consider this: Once the final version of The Battle of the Five Armies hits Blu-ray, Jackson's full series will take almost a full day of your life to get through. And yet, even here, at the end of all things Middle-earth, the filmmaking and world-crafting and orc-decapitations are still brash and vigorous, still lavish, rousing, grating, wearying, and hilarious, both intentionally and un-.
When orc and dwarf spill through fog onto a silvery frozen lake, and then in that roller-rink moonscape gorgeousness keep their grudge match going both above and under the ice, you may carp that it's all just too much. But it's hard not to marvel at just how much too-much Jackson has whipped up -- and how much of it was inspired.
The film builds to a series of boss battles against scarred and gum-fleshed orc chiefs Tolkien didn't even bother putting in the book. They're individually spectacular, staged with the full Jackson invention and brio -- he's as good at this stuff as anyone in the history of movies. But they just keep coming, like frozen yogurt from a self-serve spigot a kid didn't bother turning off, more and more in a relentless gush. The Hobbit is less a trilogy than it is a heaping mound of sugary goo.
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson and J.R.R. Tolkien
Producer: Carolynne Cunningham, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh
Cast: Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Lee Pace, Christopher Lee, Richard Armitage and Andy Serkis