Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ★★★


    It has been a long journey, in the realm of Middle-earth, and one that seemed to begin only yesterday, as Frodo and Sam marched out of The Shire, in hopes to restore tranquility to the spectacular lands that comprise this fictional haven of imagination. Over this span of a little more than a decade, Peter Jackson has not only become a household name, but he has earned respect worldwide for his interpretation of some of the finest, and most influential, literature to ever be written.

    Yet, in the latest installment, Jackson's focus seems somewhat misguided, as the cinematic concern of moral implication (which is arguably the original thematic intention of Tolkien, himself) is thrown into the spotlight, and loose ties never seem to be quite resolved.

    "The Battle of the Five Armies" picks up exactly where the last film ended (shot in a blissful forty-eight frames per second), with Lake Town under siege, and Thorin sliding ever so quickly into a state of madness, due to his obsession with everything that glitters. The throne of Erebor has returned to the king of the Dwarves, and with this comes egoism, envy, and inevitably, war. (Hence the name of the picture, itself.)

    As far as the direction is concerned, Jackson hits his mark every time. The director's interpretive cinematic points of view are exquisitely fashioned, and never fail in lending the utmost dramatic intensity to every scene in which they are found. The zoom lens is utilized with the most precise care, and if Jackson has a specialty, it is indisputably the use of the gyrospheric shot, as the remarkable panning of landscapes and wandering figures once again finds its way into a Tolkien themed picture.

    The composition of the cinematography is adequate enough and is best encapsulated by a wonderful utilization of foreground framing, in which Thorin and Bard discuss promises through the gates of Erebor. The presence of symbolism and visual metaphors are abundant in nature, and accentuate the film splendidly.

    Greed is an idea expressed throughout the duration of the picture, with the technique of repetition, fueling the articulation. Likewise, the symbolism of love is brought to our attention, through an elegant display of musical emphasis, which can be heard as Tauriel and Kili pronounce their feelings for one another. Additionally, there is the Arkenstone, whose symbolic value is obtained through its importance to the structure as a whole, along with the emphasis placed on it by Thorin. Intrinsic metaphors are used impeccably, as we are vividly shown Thorin's descent into avarice, and the significance of family, to the secondary character of Bard.

    Richard Armitage remains as the centerpiece of a very talented cast, (especially of the dwarves, considering their presence could be deemed Lilliputian) and delivers a fine performance under this added pressure. Facial acting, a forgotten aspect of the art itself, is exercised with ease by Armitage, which only adds to the depth of his role. Without a strong showing in this particular area, Thorin would be nothing more than a twenty-first-century depiction of Redd Foxx, in an episode of "Sanford and Son."

    Among the other notable returnees is Ian McKellen, as our favorite wizard in Gandalf the Grey, and Martin Freeman, as the lionhearted Bilbo Baggins. Both of these distinguished actors find their way, in what seem to be limited roles. They were surely not given enough dramatic "moments," in the bedlam of actions and events that compose the plot. Returning as the highly skilled Elven archer, Legolas, is Orlando Bloom, whose demeanor seems to have lost all hints of snide, which has been superseded by a sense of repressed anger. With this character, comes the inexorable sequences of "Matrix"-esque movements, and a flurry of arrows, although there is a scene in which Legolas inexplicably runs out of said arrows for the first time in six films.

    Despite the successes that "The Battle of the Five Armies" conjures, it is deficient in numerous aspects of quality film-making, namely, a lack of a resolution to certain, and even, important matters, and of course, there are the slightly unfavorable instances that Jackson is known for. (For example, the use of computer generated imaging to create a dwarf, instead of using a real actor.)

    As mentioned above, the Arkenstone, an integral piece to the puzzle, and its well-being, are completely disregarded, leaving us with a cavernous sized hole, in what is suppose to be the defining chapter in a three-part series of films. (More attention is given to the "one" ring, in an attempt to link the two trilogies, which is nonessential at this point.) Furthermore, there is the issue of Bard, who is a valued portion of the story, yet we are left wondering as to what exactly happens to him.

    More importantly, however, Jackson has found a new method of creating an emotional distance between his characters and the audience, that being, heedlessly stretching an already thin subject matter into detached parts of a whole. Scenes that would warrant a strong urging of sentiment were entirely lost on my consciousness, as there was simply not enough reason for attachment. (Not to mention the love story that was created for this sole purpose, yet never nurtured to a state that would require a pervading of emotion.)

    Imagine if "Schindler's List" were separated into distinct portions; the concluding monologue of Schindler, himself, would not have held the same dramatic worth, and all compassion would be squandered. Of course, moviegoers who sat in for all three pictures, as part of a limited engagement, had the chance to relish in this intuitive connection between patron and on-screen persona, and that is the complication with this formula.

    Up to this point, I have given every picture, whose setting is that of Middle-earth, four stars, and I have never thought twice about the decision. Nevertheless, for anyone who is seriously interested in the medium, and art, of film, there is one notion that can never be ignored, and one that is quite relative here. For, it is not what the film is about, that makes it a masterpiece or the epitome of unimaginative thought, but how it is about it. Whether or not you agree with this notion of structure supremacy is inconsequential, because, without it, the meaning of this delicate craft would be lost forever.

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