Jacob Martin (formally known as The Movie King)’s review published on Letterboxd:
To Mr. Peter Jackson,
Transformers: Age of Extinction. Transformers: Age of Extinction was more well-made than this film. Think about that for a second. Michael Bay, that dude who favors high-dollar explosions over good storytelling made a better film than you. You, Peter Jackson, who made possibly the most epic trilogy that has ever been filmed, has gone into a rather lackluster level in "closing" The Hobbit trilogy. Now I know, I know The Hobbit films were never intended to match the greatness of Lord of the Rings, but for someone that waited an entire freakin year to see this adventure end after the stakes were raised pretty high from Desolation of Smaug... was left with such a bitter feeling that maybe you should have left The Hobbit as the originally-planned two-part installment.
You know what you did right in this film, Mr. Jackson? Well, to start off, the first 10 minutes of The Battle of the Five Armies is possibly the best thing in the entire movie, Bard's epic showdown with the dragon Smaug. I was literally flipping out over how well-visualized this scene was crafted and that this was going to be that 10/10 masterpiece that Return of the King was. And then I saw the death of the dragon... die... die.... die in the most laughable way possible... and then my expectations fell completely through. But that doesn't mean I completely hate this film, Mr. Jackson. Certainly not, by all means. There's an enjoyably strong story waiting to be discovered; Thorin Oakenshield going into "dragon sickness" and refusing to share his wealth with the people he promised to share it with, clashing tensions with his fellow dwarves and Bilbo over the possession of a certain jewel called "The Arkenstone", and the excellent build-up between orcs, elves, dwarves, and the men of Lake-town as they head the charge to fight over the mountain of power. It's this first-half of the film that I thought was that magic feeling of LOTR-type greatness. And then we get to that last hour...
Oh boy, Mr. Jackson, how can I describe what I was watching about that last hour where it's entirely a non-stop battle of five armies (wait... five armies???... let me count, we have the elf army, the dwarf army, the Lake-town army, and the Orc army.... shouldn't it be called The Battle of the Four Armies, Mr. Jackson???) clashing over gold and power. You know what makes an hour-long battle the best, Mr. Jackson??? A well-visualized battle that mixes the realism with a little bit of digital enhancement! But what do you do to visualize this epic battle? You CGI the dang thing! Over-CGI this battle because you were still stuck in the early 2000s when too much computer graphics is the best thing ever!!! I'm sorry, Peter, but as much as I enjoyed the visuals of both An Unexpected Journey and about 85% of Desolation of Smaug's CG, this... this... this... is just a bloated mess. Don't get me wrong, there's still some impressive feats; again I loved the opening 10 minutes with Smaug, and the orcs and eagles are still wonderfully created. But then we get to the armies fighting it out... and I was just laughing hysterically at how the mess just looked. There's a dwarf character who's supposed to be the cousin of Thorin, I believe, that seriously looks like those freaky mo-cap creations from Mars Needs Moms (never a good comparison, Peter)! It's entertaining to say the least, but you can't take a battle seriously, Mr. Jackson, when your battle features things like... Bard ramming a troll with a wagon cart, Bilbo killing orcs with a teeny tiny rock, that elf leader's moose thing decapitating multiple orcs with its antlers, and my personal favorite, Legolas completely defying the laws of physics by running across a decaying bridge like a falling staircase. Seriously Mr. Jackson, this is about the funniest battle atrocity I've ever witnessed in my life... and this is coming from a dude who was completely wowed at that barrel scene in Desolation!!! Despite that scene's over-reliance of CG, at least it was visualized well that it didn't detract from the drama the dwarves were facing in that situation. Here, the only amount of character is emphasized in the first hour, and there's barely any focus on none of the dwarves except Thorin, who's a complete whiner here, and Kili, who has that dumb love-triangle with that lady elf, who's line "If this is love, I don't want it" bull was about the stupidest pile of crappy dialogue I've ever heard in my life. You know an entire society is completely messed up when the entire audience was able to take this horrendous scene very seriously... and I was sitting there laughing and laughing and laughing my butt off at what I just heard!
But what disappoints me even more, Mr. Jackson, is the treatment you regard our supposed main character, THE HOBBIT. Martin Freeman still remains excellent in this role, and still does here. The character was strong in the first hour, providing an excellent diplomat to the tensions unfolding between parties, but completely disappears in the entire battle only to destroy orcs with rocks and get knocked out early on to focus on the Legolas and Thorin stuff. Since when was this trilogy called The Selfish Dwarf Taking Over the Spotlight of The Hobbit??? But in all honesty, Mr. Jackson, the dynamic between Bilbo and Thorin was one of the stronger aspects of the film, and made me wish more of these scenes were featured in the weaker moments.
How does the acting hold up? Still remarkable, like you've done in the past! Again, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, and Richard Armitage give strong performances as Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin, respectably, even if the latter is getting more undeserved screen-time. The other dwarves are completely underdeveloped here than in the past, which could have been a pacing issue, but we'll never know unless you explain that if I buy your cash-grabbed extended version. Luke Evans completely improves his acting capabilities, providing a sense of heart and soul as a leader and father figure as Bard, and I still thought Orlando Bloom's Legolas was still overall awesome, defying physics and all (I did crack up at the end-joke where Legolas finally runs out of arrows, something we all made fun of in LOTR)! But the disappointing factor, acting-wise, in my perspective, is Evangeline Lilly as the lady elf with the dwarf romance. Good gosh, what a major step-down from Desolation! I commend the character for still kicking orc butt, but my gosh, Mr. Jackson, this character was nowhere as interesting as she was in the predecessor! And then we still have that dang love arc, which I'll never understand why you decided to add in such torture in a million years!
But hey, at least the music doesn't suck! I've always been a fan of Howard Shore's music in all the Middle-earth related films, and this is no exception. I don't know what your composer was reacting when he was given a copy of the final product, but I commend him for taking this film extremely seriously and still crafting another epic score! And Billy Boyd's song in the closing credits? Wonderful stuff!
So, if this letter seems tedious, Mr. Jackson, I just wanted to show how gipped I felt when I realized that this is the last time you'll be treating us to Middle-earth. I think we all wanted to feel the same amount of warmth and comfort you gave us back in 2003 with the phenomenal Return of the King, but never went anywhere as close with that emotional awesomeness. Even more disappointing was that I was cheering at some of the dwarf deaths of characters I didn't care for in past installments. But with its plenty of faults, I think The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will remain the ultimate "so bad, it's hilariously entertaining" kind of fantasies. It's poorly visualized, filled with unrealistic logic, and horrific drama, but it's storyline was still intriguing to where I wanted to see how it ended. I'll likely still buy the DVD just to complete the Middle-earth collection, but I don't think I'll ever love this as I did other installments of the franchise. Oh well, hey, at least it's better than your failed passion project that was King Kong!!!
Please, Mr. Jackson, leave the world of Middle-earth officially and work with Steven Spielberg on Tintin 2!!!
The Movie King
"You are a very fine fellow, Mr Baggins, and I am very fond of you. But you are really just a little fellow, in a wide world."