Tolkien’s Cinematic Hurrah

It’s slightly past Christmas, and the final Hobbit cash-in has arrived. Sadly, this is it people – Tolkien will never reach the big screen again – but you’d be surprised to hear it’s not because this is the final film in The Hobbit trilogy. Alas, the decision lies with the Tolkien estate. His descendants have claimed they hate this trilogy, and that his stories have been modernised beyond recognition. Adaptation is a cruel business indeed.

What of the film itself? Well, Sir Ian McKellan will forever make a superb Gandalf (nothing new there), same goes for Christopher Lee as Saruman. There’s nothing special about the rest of the cast however; Martin Freeman continues to be as Martin-Freeman-ish as he can whilst the rest contribute to a potent display of overarching masculinity. Director Peter Jackson’s digital perfection segues nicely from the last films, but to a point. There were some blaringly obvious CGI casualties – when Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel has a showdown with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sauron you’ll see what I mean.

So, is it yay or nay? If I’m honest, the trilogy was doomed to failure from the start because… well… it’s a trilogy. Have you seen The Hobbit as a book? It’s tiny. That meant that this film became a giant overkill of climaxes. Overall, there’s near persistent fighting for 2 and-a-bit hours, it’s tiring to say the least and, if I’m honest, I think the actors are tired too: it shows. Their weak performances suggest they are fed up with it all and are all fairly glad it’s over. The DVD extras for the last films indicate Jackson’s own jovial dislike for the film process, but I have an inkling the problem lies deeper, and that this external jovial persona merely hides an all too awful truth – Jackson is fed up with Tolkien. It’s nice to see a layered, rich blockbuster, but it’s a sad end to what could have been a fantastic trilogy. If you’ve seen the first two, then go to the cinema and finish it off in style, otherwise just wait for the DVD.

(***) 3 STARS