The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


Rating: 3 of 5 ★★★☆☆ 

I went into this film with an open mind. No, that’s a lie. I did go into it wanting to be proved wrong; hoping Peter Jackson would impress me with how he pulled it all off. Didn’t work out so well.

The story ends before the title card! I’m sorry that’s kind of a spoiler, but really if it happens BEFORE THE TITLE CARD OF THE FILM can it really be considered a spoiler? If so, then I apologize.

Spoilers for the first 20 minutes »
In some ways it makes sense. Smaug burns the town, Bard shoots him. There’s not a lot to draw out there and in some ways I’m thankful Jackson didn’t try. But. But, the Hobbit story ends before the title card of the third movie! The entire movie is Peter Jackson off on a tangent, whether partially derived from the appendixes or not. I just had no idea what to do after that.

I was admittedly rolling my eyes a few times rather liberally after that start. Because my trust in this film was completely blown at that point. Then the Nazgul show up and suddenly it’s more video game than movie. Galadriel goes all sea witch and I’m feeling sorry for these actors. Because they wanted to be in something cool, something epic and spectacular. And Peter Jackson goes and makes it ridiculous.

Then Bilbo shows up and a good portion of my cynicism melted away. Because Martin Freeman is so fantastic in this role. He’s such a good actor. The nuance and earnestness of his performance is just so spot on that I’m almost glad there’s this movie so I can watch him in it.

Richard Armitage handled Thorin’s madness really well also. It’s subtle but effective. So, of course, Jackson goes and ruins it by deciding the best way to work through the madness is have the camera stare at him for 5 minutes and tell him to be interesting. Armitage does a admirable job of trying but can’t overcome the fact that, once again, the movie becomes more video game than actual movie and it’s just weird and the poor guy is in this whole sequence by himself and there had to have been better ways to do it.

That’s the thing about this movie. As wretched as Peter Jackson made the story (or maybe it was Guillermo del Toro, who knows) all of the actors were pretty great. The only reason I didn’t give the directing rating a 1 is because part of it would have been out of spite and also he must get some credit for doing so well with the actors. They are by far the saving grace of this film.

Not the characters necessarily, though. The whole Kili/Tauriel thing was ridiculous. It adds absolutely nothing to the story. And even more than that – they have this very cool, very badass girl that they’ve very successfully and seamless inserted into the story but then a large portion of her character becomes defined by this insipid love triangle. It gave her one good emotional scene at the end but aside from a good moment for Evangeline Lily and a point of connection between her and Thranduil, it did absolutely nothing for the story.

And these films were already bloated. I mean, they could have trimmed the first movie, dropped the Kili/Tauriel thing and added 20 minutes onto the end of Desolation of Smaug and there’s the whole story. We don’t need extended editions of the dvds we need edited versions.

I might have a different point of view if the battles this film is named after were interesting or worthwhile. At one moment they felt like the Man of Steel version of the Hobbit where there’s just mindless mass destruction. But then they pulled out of that after about 5 minutes and brought it back around to the characters and the true toll so I have to give them credit for that. But there was no tension in these battles. Because there is no hero and no sweeping victory. There’s fighting.

ok this is a little, vaguely spilery »
And then it sort of just dwindles out. There’s a threat of an entire army about to bear down on them but it’s apparently defeated by a bear and a few eagles. Killing Azog seems to mean the end of all the other orcs attacking them. Somehow.
It all would have been much more effective if there were smaller, personal battles – emotional battles instead of hollow armies attacking each other. There was really no sense of risk in these battles or victory. And without both of those, what’s the point of a battle?

And also

maybe a spoiler - I don't remember the book well enough »
does Thorin die at the end of the book? I don’t remember that. Granted when I read it I probably barely kept track of the dwarves. But you’d think that’s the sort of thing I’d recall. Even if he does, I’m sure it’s not at the hands of a giant, ugly orc so that’s all just so really wrong.

That’s the source of my initial cynicism and, I think, a lot of other people’s as well. You don’t mess with the story like this. Just because you have the film rights, doesn’t mean you have free reign to make the story into whatever you want it to be. I get the tension of a studio’s demands to make enough money to justify the cost. And I think Peter Jackson likes this world and these characters and is genuinely doing what he thinks is his best with them and enjoys working in that world so he’s going to do everything he can to continue. But, there’s legitimate changes that need to happen in order to make a book a effective film. And there’s egotistical, vanity changes. And there’s changes that expect the audience will just show up with their money no matter how much you diminish something they love and think they won’t notice. This film feels more like the latter two changes and less like the first. Which is disappointing.

Also, the whole defining chapter marketing still bothers me considerably. Especially now, having seen the film, and how very un-Tolkien the whole thing is. It’s a poor enough showing in and of itself. To try to turn it into the defining chapter of an epic saga does a terrible injustice to the rest of it.

I understand why Christopher Tolkien wouldn’t be fond of Peter Jackson and his work. I’m not fond of what these films have done to this story and it’s not even my father whose work they’ve diminished. But the book still exists. And it can’t be expanded or interfered with. The movies can be ignored, if need be. It’s just disappointing because they could have been good.

There’s a part of me that wanted this to end up with a 2.75 star rating, just so it fell into the 2s, just out of spite. But as disappointed as I was, it wasn’t awful enough to honestly deserve that kind of a rating. And the performances were so very good from all the actors that I couldn’t do that to them.


December 20, 2014 | Review , , , , | this post contains affiliate links