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Anyone who has read my reviews for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug know that while I enjoyed them to a good degree, I definitely had some problems with all the obvious filler added to pad a moderately sized book into 3 lengthy films. Thankfully the third and final installment of this trilogy, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary prequel to his Lord Of The Rings trilogy, not only never feels padded but, is a powerful and spectacular conclusion that ranks as one of the best of his Middle Earth films.

The story picks up where the last chapter left off with Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) venting his rage on Lake Town, which leads to Thorin (Richard Armitage) reclaiming the Lonely Mountain. But, Thorin has acquired ‘The Dragon Sickness” and is becoming as greedy as it’s previous occupant and turns his back on his allies leaving the Lake Town survivors at his door begging for aid. The elves have come in force to also claim what is their’s and they join forces with Bard (Luke Evans) and his people to form an army to lay siege  to the fortress with Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the 12 dwarves inside. And this plays them all right into The Defiler Azog’s (Manu Bennett) hands as the orc has assembled a massive army and now can crush dwarf, elf and human together, all at once. But, sometimes common foes can make allies out of enemies and all may not be lost as Bilbo and Gandalf (Ian McKellan) try to convince the former allies to reunite against the hordes of evil that are knocking at their door.

I loved this movie. After being a little disappointed at how much the first two flicks were padded and drawn-out to create a trilogy out of a single book, this… the shortest of the 3 films at 144 minutes… gets right to it and gives us a conclusion that is as emotionally strong as it is action packed and visually spectacular. The film never drags it’s feet, as the others did in spots, and none of the action scenes feel like they have overstayed their welcome like the second film’s fun but, overlong barrel chase. Jackson returns to the intense emotions of his Lord Of The Rings trilogy and the film has some powerful moments both triumphant and heartbreaking, heralding some of the Rings trilogy’s finest moments. Yes, this entry is that good and makes the weaknesses of the previous films all the more apparent. It’s amazing what 20 less minutes can do to trim the fat while keeping the meat. As with all these films they are technical and artistic marvels of top-of-the-line SPFX and design. This film looks as spectacular as it’s action and we get treated to some new creations not seen in previous films and go deeper into some of the places previously visited. The score by Howard Shore is his best of this trilogy and the cinematography of Andrew Lesnie captures everything not computer generated, splendidly.

One problem I never had with this series is the cast. It is obviously a considerably large and talented cast and Jackson has gotten good work out of all of them. Martin Freeman shines as Bilbo, again, though it almost seemed like Richard Armitage’s Thorin took center stage this time. Armitage skillfully takes his nobel warrior into a state of selfish greed and then reawakens the proud dwarf within when the story calls for it. McKellen is masterful, as always, as Gandalf and Luke Evans is thankfully given lots more to do here and makes far more of an impact with his Bard. Evangeline Lilly once again steals hearts and slays orcs as elven warrior Tauriel and she gets some nice emotionally strong moments and handles them quite well. Orlando Bloom brings back beloved Legolas to action and it was great seeing him in battle once more as it was to see Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm and the legendary Christopher Lee one more time in Middle Earth. The rest of the cast all do good work bringing their fantasy characters to life whether under make-up or CGI and it enhances the film even more.

What can I say, I had a great time here! Jackson delivers an epic conclusion that makes up for the indulgent enhancing of a classic tale in the first two parts and delivers spectacle and drama on the level of his LOTR trilogy that seemed to be lacking in the first two chapters of this prequel trilogy… though, The Hobbit is a less intense book to begin with. It’s got massive battles, incredible visuals, stunning special FX and some dramatic intensity to back it up. And if all else had failed… and it sure doesn’t… we get to see Evangeline Lilly’s enchanting elf one last time.

4 Elven hotties.

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For this Sunday night’s entertainment, I’ve chosen to revisit the first in Peter Jackson’s new Hobbit trilogy!

I will start off by saying that there is no reason to spread a single book into 3 movies (actually there is, greed.) and since you are doing so, there is no reason for any of those 3 movies to be almost 3 hours long. And this overindulgence and it’s effect on the film’s pacing is the only problem I have with the first of this new trilogy of movies based on Tolkien’s The Hobbit as it would have been better served and better paced if kept well under 2 and 1/2 hours. That being said, I did enjoy the film quite a bit once we get past the slow first half set up and get to the adventuring. The film is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit which is set 60 years before The Lord Of The Rings saga and tells the story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman in younger days and Ian Holm as the older Bilbo) as he is given the task by Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) to aid a band of dwarves in retaking their kingdom from the dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). It’s a simple story that would have made a great single film but, director Peter Jackson and crew have overindulgently chosen to pad the story and drag it out over 3 apparently long movies and the first half of this flick suffers for it. It’s 40 minutes before Bilbo even leaves his home. But, Jackson still packs the film with enough visual majesty and pulse pounding thrills to win us over, despite making a mountain out of a molehill. His Middle Earth is still a wonder to behold and we get to visit new places and meet a horde of new characters. The second half picks up speed and we get the action and adventure we came for and it doesn’t disappoint. The last act in particular never stops moving and has some spectacular action sequences as our band meet some of Middle Earth’s more fearsome inhabitants and make some nasty enemies. It’s all well staged and as with the last series of films, the special effects are spectacular and the visuals are breathtaking. Despite the negatives, there is still a lot to enjoy about this story which by nature is lighter in tone then the trilogy it precedes. There are also some appearances by now favorite characters and it was nice to see them back especially since we know where they are headed. Maybe now that the set up is over and the quest has begun, the pacing will be much more in line with the Rings trilogy for the next two movies. Overall I enjoyed the first segment of this Hobbit trilogy and anxiously await the next part, The Desolation Of Smaug but, hopefully Peter Jackson spends a bit more time in the editing room and cuts some of the overindulgent fat and sticks to the lean meat of this classic tale for the final two installments.

3 and 1/2 generous Dwarven war axes as the second half of this flick more then makes up for the slower pace of the first half!

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