When last we saw our intrepid Hobbit… and dwarves, elves, humans, wizards, and orcs… Well, you get the idea. This final installment of the Tolkien books is all battle and wrap-up (some of it rather early on); pretty for the large screen, but not necessarily the fitting emotional end for the multi-year trek through Middle Earth we’ve all been on.
Here’s the thing: in trying to make this children’s story (which it was) into a more adult adventure to match Lord of the Rings (since it was produced after that) they lost focus. To move away from the likely disastrous path of making this all about Bilbo and the ring, Jackson fractured the plot across too many characters, new and old, leaving us with far too much to remember over the years and not enough pay off for any one of them. The story also has far too many goals and complaints. This trilogy will probably work much better viewed all at once than it did over each individual year. There are just too many key moments that make no sense unless you remember all the bits and pieces… and I’m sorry, I just didn’t.
The performances remain as solid as they were. Blanchett (Hanna) finally gets to let loose in this sequence, and probably has about the best moment in the finale. No one else is really worth mentioning as they all did what they needed to, though Armitage (MI-5/Spooks) really chews scenery in this one… and not always in a good way.
Much like Nolan being free of the Dark Knight and giving us Interstellar out of the gate (despite all its flaws) I’m hoping Jackson has his next major project already rolling. He is a visionary and a great story-teller, but he needs to be working on something new. He’s gotten far too close to this story and lost track of the fact that not all of us have lived there for the last 18 years. So see this one to put it to bed and then move on. It needs a big screen for its first viewing for sure. As holiday fare and pure distraction, it was OK. As a swan song to Middle Earth, it was a bit of a lone note on the wind, but still one of the most ambitious projects under-taken and held to quality throughout. Few single, long-running storylines can say that, if any. So kudos! Now let’s move on!