Cinema Gulp’s review published on Letterboxd:
When I heard that one small book would be turned into three films, I truly didn't panic. Why? Because none other than Peter Jackson (the director who undoubtedly gave us one of the best trilogies of all time) was making them. Granted, I along with many was curious to see what Del Toro had up his sleeve when he was attached. But, like with so many films that Del Toro is attached to, he fled the project. So naturally when Jackson was brought back on board, I think it is fair to say that so were most of the fans of the original trilogy. Let's face facts. It was never going to be the same. It was never going to be as good. How could it? You are only as good as your source material allows you to be. Lord of the Rings were better books, they were adapted masterfully, so how was it ever going to compare or feel necessary?
Well, when we got "An Unexpected Journey" I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, the first hour was very slow and you could feel the need to stretch scenes to the fullest, all the while knowing that two more were going to exist after this one. However, it had a certain charm and Martin Freeman was enough to put it over the top and make us care. The biggest problem with these films for me has always be the fact that I can't tell one Dwarf apart from the next. "The Desolation of Smuag" for me was the best of the three. Feeling more like the original trilogy, it kept a consistent pace all the way through, build on character and story, and actually got us to the finale of the book. Its just really too bad it didn't end there. Perhaps if it had, we would have been spared "The Battle of the five Armies".
While watching this film, I watched and waited for relevancy, but was unsuccessful. Then, after watching it, I was unable to think of one reason why it should exist. Without too many spoilers, I'll say that its only link to the book was finished literally 5 minutes after the "Wingnut Films Production" logo is shown. From there, it was more about figuring out where they were going to take the story since there was no source material left. I watched and watched and waited and waited for a story to form, but none ever surfaced. It became evident to me that the rest of the 2 hour running time was going to be a battle of sorts. I was thinking to myself, "That's fine I guess". Unfortunately, the battle was bland, uninteresting, uninvolving, tension-less, and emotionless. The story was so simplistic and so dimwitted that this film no longer felt that it was even in the same universe as the rest of the 5 films. All of the sudden there was no one to care about and no one to route for. Its a shame really, because the opening scene, though short, was really good. It didn't deliver on that standard the rest of the film.
Almost everything about this film felt rushed. From Smuag to waging war for no reason to the Orc army attack. There was just no tension. No sense of dread. Thoron is literally the worst protagonist I've ever scene in a LOTR film and it really shows in this one. When it becomes more clear that he will be the hero of the film, I became all that much more uninterested, especially considering he spends the first half of the film as the villain. That's how poorly this film was executed. We as the audience never knew or cared much what was going on or why. It all just sort of happened and then never tied anything up. One minute Bard the Bowman seemed like the main hero and the next he was completely gone from the film never to be seen or mentioned again. Bilbo sort of bumbles around and falls a lot, feeling Freeman with literally nothing to do and really only Legolos and the chick from lost have any really reason to care for. Though, even they barely matter. Bloom is merely shoehorned into these films and Kate from Lost is simply an added in character to create a love triangle that really barely exists. Its all just for nothing.
I reuse the word shame, not because I now feel that they ruined something that could have been great, but because it was ever made in the first place. Honestly, the first 5 minutes of this film could have been the last 5 minutes of "Smuag" anbd that really would have made "Smuag" one of the best of all the films. Instead, they lessened "Smuag" with an abrupt ending and then made a film so bad, so irrelevant, and so irritatingly rushed that you can see the cut corners. And for what? Money I guess. Because as advocates love to tell you "Its a business". And sure, yeah it is a business and money is an important piece, but what ever happened to integrity? I'm sure money grubbing executives and business advocates still believe in integrity right? Is there nothing held sacred to anyone in Hollywood? Peter Jackson was given a gift to create something so magnificent and so magical and succeeded so brilliantly for so long. I just can't help but think of what could have been, if only this film were never made. Its the shortest film of all 6 and it shows. It was so rushed especially towards the end that I feel Jackson was worried of "Return of the Kind" syndrome and did't want too many false endings. Instead, we literally didn't get one. It ends so quick, one will sit there and ponder, why? Why did I follow any of these characters if I'm not ever going to get a glimpse of what happened to them. Did Bard and the people of Laketown ever get their gold? Who the hell knows. Where are all the tie ins to Lord Of the Rings? There weren't any. Nothing.
Most disappointing film of the year for me. I know this will never happen, but I'd love to see a Blu Ray set come out that forgets this retched and rushed film and just tack on the first 5 minutes to the end of "Smuag". Best of all, this film would cease to exist. The way it should in reality.