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.
The grand experiment that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been trucking along since 2008. The first nine films (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel’s The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) combined have earned over 6 billion (with a “B”) dollars worldwide. These movies are a great financial success, but more and more they are starting to feel creatively dull. The most recent film from Marvel Studios, Guardians of the Galaxy, looks to break that trend. Based on an incredibly obscure comic book team, Guardians of the Galaxy is unlike any movie Marvel has put out, and it feels like it, too.