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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Much has been made of director Peter Jackson’s decision to film J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ book over three movies.  The story only lent itself to just one with many criticising this extension as a cynical studio money-grab.  Whilst that notion is partially true, it ignores that the Hobbit movies have successfully captured the essence of Tolkien’s work.  The final instalment in the trilogy ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies’ does a great job in closing the Middle Earth chapter begun in 2001’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ extravaganza.

 

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is in a world of trouble.  Attempting to free a kingdom trapped in the clutches of Smaug the Dragon, he watches helplessly as it goes on a path of destruction.  Helped by wise wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and dwarf leader Thorin (Richard Armitage), Bilbo tries to face his fears and rid his land of tyranny in a final, desperate battle.

 

‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ thrives on sheer scale.  A true epic with some brilliantly realised battle sequences, as an action fantasy event, it is hard to beat.  Jackson immerses himself with gusto into Middle-Earth’s adventures with the different characters combining to make a fascinating whole.  Whether they are hobbits, orcs or dwarves, you care about their actions – something many fantasy film writers forget to do.  Whilst the admittedly threadbare story mostly takes a back-seat to the spectacle, there’s enough to maintain interest.

 

A technical achievement on a grand canvas, ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ is visually arresting.  Those seeing it in the much publicised higher frame-rate may find the picture quality off-putting.  Although distracting, it doesn’t dilute the power of the amazing CGI.  The creativity gone into conjuring Tolkien’s world is inspiring and is aided by the ever lush New Zealand locations.  All are served by the fine performances with the mix of drama and humour revealing Jackson’s determination to have fun in his last sojourn in Hobbit territory.

 

There’s a sense Jackson didn’t want the franchise to end with ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ providing a strong final coda.  He should be content his creative legacy will forever shine with the Lord of the Rings films a bench-mark for others to follow.

 

Rating out of 10:  7

The Water Diviner

Since the days of Charlie Chaplain, actors directing their own films have become increasingly common.  Whether they want to further their craft or their own egos is debatable.  What isn’t is the differing quality of their directorial projects.  Robert Redford and George Clooney have excelled in their self-made movies, while others have fallen flat.  ‘The Water Diviner’ finds Russell Crowe taking a turn behind the camera.  Crafting an interesting film, it shows he has creative talent behind his sometimes boorish persona.

 

In 1919, Australian farmer Conner (Russell Crowe) is on a quest.  Wanting to discover the fate of his three sons who fought in Gallipoli, he travels to Turkey.  While staying in a hotel run by Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), Connor teams with a Turkish officer.  Travelling across the still war-scarred terrain, Connor soon learns about sacrifice and heroism with his mission taking some unexpected paths.

 

‘The Water Diviner’ marks a respectable directorial debut for Crowe.  Grasping the story’s themes and characters with ease, he reveals flair in blending them together. His handling of the culture clashes between Connor and those he meets are especially fascinating.  Not only does Connor deal with tension amongst the Turks but also the stifling British bureaucracy.  The immediate aftermath of such a bloody war is interestingly told, with passions still running high.

 

Another plus are the locations which look amazing.  From the Australian outback’s rugged terrain to Turkey’s natural beauty, ‘The Water Diviner’ has a good sense of place.  These further magnify the differing nationalities and the character’s determined natures.  Whilst some editing choices and a few out of place action scenes muddy the narrative, ‘The Water Diviner’ succeeds in being a film of quality. 

 

Generally free of the pretention of many local drama films, ‘The Water Diviner’ is something many should appreciate. Crowe doesn’t disgrace himself as a director or performer with his latest a more than decent directorial debut.

 

Rating out of 10:  7