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Director’s quest reaches a noble end, faithful to Tolkien’s moral vision


By Patrick B. McGuigan

In “The Hobbit” conclusion, director Peter Jackson reaches the end of his “Ring” cycle, brilliantly bringing to life J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The sub-title is “Battle of the Five Armies” – and armed conflict consumes half the screen time.

There are tensions among the dwarf band of brothers longing for a restored homeland, and a share of earthly treasure. As for the Elves, Evangeline Lilly is appealing as Tauriel. Some have derided the chaste love between her warrior-princess and the dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner), but their attraction forged in conflict and deprivation draws on romantic traditions in tales of holy Knights and virtuous Ladies. (Some story additions lie woven into Tolkein’s trilogy notes.)

Conflict between Smaug (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) and Bard (Luke Evans) is nicely staged, the special effects are believable. Sacrifices for freedom are shown in the deaths of virtuous souls.

This tale concentrates on Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Thorin (Richard Armitage). Freeman’s wrap-up in Tolkien’s alternative universe is a glowing tribute to the little folk the Oxford linguist fashioned in his original novels. Armitage’s dwarf monarch is ultimately sympathetic.

We hear, “If more people cared more for home than for gold, the world would be a better place.” That sums up Tolkien’s morality, alongside a trilogy moment, when Gandalf instructs Frodo that no one chooses when they live: “The question is, what do we do with the time we have?”

Just before Bilbo returns to the Shire, elf leaders Thranduil (Lee Pace) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) sketch the future. The latter is encouraged to go “north” to find “Strider,” one whose goodness might bring perhaps lasting peace to the world.

Ian McKellan is solid as the great Gandalf, Christopher Lee is (for now) a good guy in a fight with Ring-Wraiths, and Cate Blachett is alluring as the greatest Elfin princess.

Some off-key critics have blasted this motion picture for alleged sins. Perhaps this is not the best of the six films (that designation might go to “The Two Towers,” the second film, i.e. part five in the film series).

Nonetheless, Jackson’s quest, faithful to Tolkien’s vision, has reached a noble end.


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