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Back again, finally – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

December 17, 2014

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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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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2014 3:32 pm

    I agree. Though the special affects are amazing the characters leave much to be desired. I’m always against adding in little side story’s (such as the dwarf elf love story…really? come on!) just to juice up the story. If the story needed juicing up you wouldn’t be making it into a movie in the first place!

  2. January 15, 2015 12:58 pm

    Comment below I completely disagree with particularly character expansion. If you take the two books and the two set of films. Hobbit being not only a normal sized book but actually a book for kids and LOTR being effectively 3 very adult books you have the LOTR which is very expansive on character so much so that that the 8 hour movie epic is digested down (so for example no Tom Bombadil) and Hobbit is made up to stretch it out to the 8 hour epic with filler like the White Council scene which is purely Jacksonesque rather Tolquenesque.

    Obvious first problem with the film is nothing really happens. Luke Evans really saves the film but only because after Bard defeats Smaug and particularly after the town folk of Laketown hed up the mountain that’s it, film over. There’s a battle between five armies – on that the way it’s played out you get lost in Jackson’s plot that I left the cinema asking who was the 5th army – and after that there’s the end of the saga journey back to Hobbiton for Bilboa but that’s it. There’s the ridculous descension and sudden redemption of Thorin’s character which is so dramatic it’s unreal and ridiculous, in the end your just watching two hours of battles which surprisingly are rather dull compared to the other battles from the previous five films which I was surprised at because Jacksons’ been on such good form previously.

    Secondly it really should have been two hobbit films and not three but given the commercial success of the whole franchise that really wasn’t going to happen.

    The real pitty is the whole filmaking middle earth epic of Jackson’s really is a classic with the exception of the damp squid last five armies and it feels so wrong to leave it on that note. Probably the worst saga ending in film history other than the Matrix trilogy.

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