As I sit here listening to the original Lord of the Rings scores written by Howard Shore back in the early 2000s, I can't help but reflect on how big a part Peter Jackson's Tolkien films have played in my life. No piece of cinema has set my imagination to wandering in quite the same way. And even as I had levels of disappointment about the overall quality of the prequel series, The Hobbit, I still feel a great sense gratitude toward Peter Jackson for giving me the opportunity in my lifetime to experience such a massive and beautiful world.
The Battle of the Five Armies is good. And for that I am thankful. As much as Jackson's film career has modeled that of George Lucas, the man has never given us a product so useless as the Star Wars prequels. He has, it seems, always managed to bring just enough to the table to keep my appetite sated. Sure these Hobbit flicks have been overwhelmed by special effects, hurt by an extension into three films from two (which many can argue was too much to begin with), and at times even simply abandoned as the final action sequences of The Desolation of Smaug were. But there has always been a level of heart that could not be denied.
Similarly, we as fans have been welcomed into the bosom of the productions themselves with Jackson's extensive special features. We've been afforded unparalleled insights into the making of these epic films and have been allowed to see the good times as well as the bad. It's truly remarkable the relationship Jackson has managed to create with his audience. And again I'm thankful.
So what do you need to know about this most recent and final chapter? The Battle of the Five Armies picks up right were The Desolation of Smaug left off. It's shorter than the other films by about a half hour. But it feels worth it. Knowing how little material they had left to work with from the book it was very interesting to see what they decided to highlight that perhaps we would not have known or experienced in the book itself. Sure, some of the action is ridiculous, but Jackson's control of the sweeping motions of his camera kept the film moving and allowed some pretty good performances to take precedence. This film is exciting. It's still got that little bit of Tolkien magic. And it gives us fans a convincing ending. After The Return of the King lost the Scouring of the Shire sequence, I was uncertain how Jackson would end his Hobbit. But rest assured, he allows us to return this time. He gives us those final thoughts that I feel were so gravely missing from Return of the King. I'm so glad that Ian McKellen continued to bring Gandalf to the screen. These would not be the same Middle-earth without him. And beyond that, the additional scenes with Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, and Christopher Lee actually managed to feel worth it. It was a pretty cool way to play with the history that we'd come to understand in the original trilogy.
I love Peter Jackson's Middle-earth movies, warts and all. They're always charming and never without that level of heart that keeps a franchise from growing stale. And I will miss these experiences far more than I realized. Thanks Peter for such a wonderful journey. You have made my young adult life feel so much richer.