Back again, finally – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
It’s a shame the Hobbit films have carried so much bloat, because there’s a great movie in there, underneath the thick layers of their interminable runtimes. Maybe, just maybe, two of them. If Peter Jackson had ignored the money-making imperative to have three box office hits over the past two years, then a plot more focused on Bilbo Baggins — you know, the Hobbit — and not pretty much everything else in Middle-earth, well, that would have been a lot of fun to watch. Martin Freeman is an actor with a remarkable ability to convey a great deal without saying a word (anyone who’s watched Sherlock has likely realized that he often steals the show from basso profondo Benedict Cumberbatch), and following his earnest, good-natured and in-way-over-his-head self on this adventure likely would have been a splendid theater-going experience.
Instead the movies have been about big battles, wholecloth-woven love arcs between a dwarf and an elf, Orcs with Captain Hook appendages and the immensely unappealing Thorin Oakenshield. A Lord of the Rings epic patina has been cast over a simpler tale, and it’s consumed the wondrous J.R.R. Tolkien book that started it all. Even the marketing for the movies has relegated Freeman’s Bilbo — it deserves to be emphasized again, the guy the movie is ostensibly about — to the background. You see more of Orlando Bloom’s stone-faced Legolas in current TV ads, a character that had nothing at all to do with the source material. Yes, the movies have looked very good (FPS aside) and have never descended to the uncharted depths of the Bay oeuvre, but it’s hard to gin up interest in a wave of characters we just can’t bring ourselves to care too much about. At least that’s true for this viewer.
But now we’ve come — at last — to the end of the journey. We’re there and back again. Does the final installment rise above its immediate predecessors?
In short — not really. While sporting an extra-grand combat sequence, the narrative detours are even more vexing this time, as the desire to throw everything and the kitchen sink onto the screen makes Jackson fail Plot Construction 101. Once more the audience is left feeling that if the filmmakers had spent less time scouring appendices and more inside the story itself, we’d all be much happier for it.
More slightly spoilerish observations on the next page, as well as a final rating.
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