It pains me to admit but I don't really care about the new Hobbit movie. This sucks because JRR Tolkien's novel about a diminutive and reluctant hero was a seminal book of my childhood and cracked my nine-year-old imagination open like a Christmas walnut.
Up until that point the only dwarves I had known were happy, singing types from Disney's Snow White. Poring through my father's ragged paperback version of The Hobbit I discovered dwarves with battleaxes and a world of wizards, Orcs, dragons and trolls that ate little people alive and sucked the flesh from their bones.
Tolkien led to the art of Frank Frazetta which led to Conan the Barbarian and from there I was hooked — Fantasy was fantastic (and for a while there Dungeons & Dragons was basically considered devil worship, so that was cool — even if it didn't get you laid).
Dozens of fantasy novels and at least 15 years later, I devoured Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films (with my father right beside me) and logic dictates that this latest installment of Bilbo Baggins and his journey "there and back again" ought to have me frothing at the mouth.
So why doesn't it? Maybe because The Hobbit was one book and Jackson has stretched it into three two-hour+ films? Perhaps all that groundbreaking cinematic wizardry Jackson pioneered with LOTR has lost some of the wow factor now that everyone does it. Maybe it's because I'm not a nine-year-old kid anymore, or maybe The Hobbit trilogy just isn't that good.
In any case, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, opens at the Whistler Village 8 this week. With a title that's also the plot, Battle focuses on the chaos that erupts after the death of the dragon Smaug (which probably should have been the end of movie two, not the start of movie three). Now every Tom, Dick and hairy-footed halfling in the realm shows up looking for a piece of Smaug's legendary treasure.
Thematically, it's a film about greed, economics and the politics of war with brotherhood and friendship thrown in there to make sure the kids learn something. And when the five armies (dwarf, elf, human, orc and eagle) literally converge from all sides, poor Bilbo Baggins is relegated to the fringes of his own story.
This isn't to say it isn't a large and impressive story ending. Director Peter Jackson brings out all the stops — there are no more Tolkien tales left to mine and this is his last kick at the Middle Earth can. The Hobbit's end fight is epic and dynamic (and like an hour long!), easily some of Jackson's most impressive battle work yet. Sure, that love-struck-elven-princess romantic subplot they tagged on to lure female viewers still seems out of place (because it is) but all in all The Hobbit ends on a high note. And only part of that is the joy of knowing there will not be another one.
Also opening for the holidays: Night at the Museum: Secretions of the Tomb. Just kidding, that is not the actual title but this one does give Owen Wilson a new career low — pissed on (more than once) by a giant monkey. Ben Stiller is back and this time he's off to a museum in England for more shenanigans with a whole new building full of stuff magically come to life. The old favourites are in there too, of course, which means viewers get to see Robin Williams again. That may cast a strange bitter-sweet pall on a children's comedy but you gotta take what you can get.
Speaking of kids, the Annie remake also drops this week. With a hugely talented cast offering a more diversified, updated re-telling of a classic this one ought to be an easy win but its getting slammed by critics. If the sun comes out tomorrow you're probably better off staying outside. And if you want a real look at economic disparity tale opt for Annie star Quvenzhane Wallis's last flick, Beasts of the Southern Wild.