9:00 am EDT, December 2, 2014

‘The Hobbit’ reviews describe finale as one of the best Middle Earth movies

The first reviews for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies are in, and many critics are praising the finale.

The third and final Hobbit held its world premiere in London on Monday night, and reviews appeared shortly thereafter.

Variety says that this film should win over those who didn’t enjoy the first two movies in The Hobbit trilogy:

Where the first two films often felt like a marking of time by a director intent on fattening his own Smaug-like coffers, “The Battle of the Five Armies” contains a series of emotional payoffs and bridges to the “Lord of the Rings” films that work as well as they do for having been carefully seeded by Jackson in the previous episodes. And if none of the “Hobbit” films resonate with “Rings’” mythic grandeur, it’s hard not to marvel at Jackson’s facility with these characters and this world, which he seems to know as well as John Ford knew his Monument Valley, and to which he here bids an elegiac adieu. Indeed, it is not only Bilbo but Jackson too who returns to the safety of his Hobbit hole, weary and winded, with a quizzical grimace on his face that seems to say: “Where do I go from here?”

The Hollywood Reporter describes the film as “the most purely entertaining” out of all six Middle Earth movies:

One of the frustrations of the first two artificially carved out Hobbit installments, which individually took nearly three hours to cover a roughly 100-page chunk of the book, was that, while everyone knew where the story was headed, it was clear it was going to take a very, very long time to get there. If An Unexpected Journey was basically a leisurely paced walking-and-talking film and The Desolation of Smaug was a waist-deep immersion in a world of peril, Battle serves up a Middle-earth version of the bombing of Dresden as an appetizer and just goes from there as grievances are aired, allegiances are weighed, potential foes are sized up and preparations are made for the ultimate battle to be fought at the Lonely Mountain.
See more All Is Lost in New ‘The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies’ Posters

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What we’re in for, then, and happily so, is far less of the interchangeable dwarves waddling around and far more of dashing guys like Legolas and Bard the Bowman making like William Tell and Robin Hood, the brooding Dwarf Lord Thorin heading to the dark side once the dragon Smaug is dispatched, the gruesome, born-to-kill Orcs marauding in all their grotesque glory and Christopher Lee kicking ass like no 92-year-old ever has before. It’s doubtful many viewers will regret that the series has abandoned its more genteel and domesticated beginnings.

Not all reviews were so positive. The Telegraph had mixed feelings:

The trouble is that Jackson can’t make [the film’s big fight] mean very much: when every life on Middle Earth is seemingly at stake, few individually grab our attention. There’s more aftermath than plot left, and very little of it has to do with Bilbo (Martin Freeman), who feels increasingly like a forlorn bystander in his own franchise.

The further and more competently the movie trundles on, the more it begs not to exist, really: hindsight favours a two-part adaptation at most. This isn’t to say there aren’t bright spots. However it was fudged, 92-year-old Christopher Lee doing Shaolin kung fu with his magic staff is great value. And the last third is rescued by one meaty, entertaining set piece – crumbling citadel, frozen lake, one-on-one duels between orcs and the principal cast. Freeman, and Evangeline Lilly as the not-in-Tolkien elf maiden Tauriel, inject some unforced pathos which puts many of their dewy-eyed co-stars to shame.

And finally, The Guardian discusses how the film puts Bilbo on the back burner:

As for Bilbo Baggins – well, he doesn’t have a whole lot to do. Martin Freeman is as likeably careworn as ever in the part, but as Jackson shuffles and prods events towards the gargantuan confrontation signalled from the outset, it is evident that Thorin is the film’s pivotal character, and the one with the most repeatedly inspected “journey”. Bilbo has a couple of errands to run, a ring to fiddle about with, but not much else – and certainly not much in the way of fighting. Jackson, for understandable reasons, has concentrated his cinematic fire on the clang of swordplay and the roar of battle; this consigns Bilbo to a peripheral role throughout. Of course, and I don’t think this is too much of a spoiler, his return to the Shire is calibrated for maximum heartstring-tugging, as well as one or two bits of business to close the loop to the Lord of the Rings movies.

Two other interesting tidbits we learned in today’s Hobbit reviews: 1) The film is the shortest of the six in Peter Jackson’s saga (2 hours, 24 minutes), and 2) the film starts off virtually where The Desolation of Smaug ended last year.

Do these reviews leave you feeling more or less excited for ‘The Hobbit’?

Related: The best moments from The Hobbit premiere in London

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