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End of an era

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Even after all this time, through hordes of orcs, elves, dwarves, hobbits and other assorted inhabitants of Middle Earth, the historical, cultural and academic juggernaut that is the Tolkein legacy keeps rolling along, with the final part of The Hobbit trilogy hitting the screens with an almighty battle.
It seems impossible that what is effectively Lord of the Rings 6 (in normal Hollywood franchise parlance) should appear, looking fresh, jaw-droppingly exciting and telling a great story.
Yet, the audiences – of all kinds – keep pouring into cinemas to taste the latest delights from the directorial hand of Peter Jackson and the acting delights of a cast that makes a Hollywood A-list appear petulant and crass.
The story of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies is simple. Humans, elves, dwarves and two breeds of orc are all heading for the mountain retreat of Smaug, the great dragon, keeper of a fabulous treasure once the property of the dwarves.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), along with assorted companions under Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the dwarfish leader, temporarily hold the fortress, but are threatened by other groups who lay claim to the gold.
All looks set of a five-way conflict, owing to Thorin becoming maddened by gold fever and unable to see reason. Despite the efforts of Gandalf (Ian McKellen), humans, elves and dwarves bicker, while Dark Lord Sauron assembles his two armies of orcs and goblins to take advantage of their disunity.
We have all the usual – but spectacular – visual effects, thanks to a department of nearly 100 people; all the usual wonderful make-up, thanks to a department of around 40, and all the usual spectacular stunts, thanks to 50 stunt artists.
All of this is brought together thanks to a directing department of one, Peter Jackson, who seems to be hard-wired into the myth, legend and arcane knowledge of the world of JRR Tolkein, late of Oxford.
It is a fabulous, rolling monster of a movie that brings delight, tension, excitement and sadness to anyone who is prepared to sit through 144 minutes and perhaps catching only catching a 10th of what is presented to them.
The list of supporting actors is so long that is seems churlish to mention just a few, but space dictates – Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, James Nesbitt, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry, Ken Stott and Ian Holm are perhaps the best known, and each contributes a subtle flavour to the overall masterpiece.
The effect of LOTR over the years has been such that people inevitably start thinking about where it can go from here. After all, we have had all The Lord of the Rings book and The Hobbit book can offer.
There has been some chat in the industry that someone ought to have a try at re-producing The Silmarillion, the last unfinished
book by Tolkein.
Only partially written by him and completed by his son, the book is said to be virtually unfilmable (but they said that about LOTR), comprising as it does a vast
historical epic over the thousands of years of Middle Earth.
Even Jackson says films based on The Silmarillion are not on the agenda for a very long time. So we shall have to wait and make do with re-runs on television, DVDS and maybe even enhanced versions in the years to come.
The end of an era. Pity.

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