The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings an end to Peter Jackson’s second round of playtime in Middle-earth. If it feels like it’s been years that is because it has been. The adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit – a children’s book – has been in development in earnest since the mid-2000’s, and after close to ten years and three movies, it is finally complete. The first part of what became a trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a relatively satisfying film, showing the reluctant departure from his comfy home of titular halfling Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to help deposed dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) reclaim his kingdom from the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and concluding with Thorin’s acceptance of Bilbo as a member of the party. After the first film’s success, Jackson and New Line Cinema decided to split the sequel in half, leading to a second film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, full of bloat and ending with a cheap cliffhanger. The third film looks to capitalize on all of that build-up with what is essentially a two and a half hour fight scene. Return of the King this ain’t, but it isn’t completely without merit.
This is a big summer for comic book movies – though it seems more and more like every summer is a big summer for the genre. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (fine) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (not-so-fine) have already seen release, while Marvel Studios’ great experiment Guardians of the Galaxy is forthcoming. But tucked into Memorial Day weekend is a new entry in a franchise that a lot of people may have forgotten about. X-Men: Days of Future Past is not only the latest installment in the adventures of the merry mutants, it is also the return of director Bryan Singer to series. Singer, screenwriter Simon Kinberg, and everyone else involved produce a movie that is everything a summer blockbuster should be.