The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Oh, thank God. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings Peter Jackson’s second Middle Earth trilogy grinding to a completely unsatisfying halt. I did not like An Unexpected Journey for a vast number of reasons. Desolation of Smaug offered a slight uptick of enjoyment, but many glaring problems remained. Battle of the Five Armies, appropriately, caps the trilogy off in laughable fashion.

Humor truly is the third Hobbit’s greatest strength. Not actual humor of course, the much more entertaining kind, unintentional humor. I laughed, and laughed heartily, at all the wrong places. The awkwardly hilarious highlights include (and are not limited to): Bard’s ridiculous shopping cart Troll takedown, Dáin's headbutt kills, Thranduil’s gigantic antlered creature, the entire Alfrid character and Peter Jackson’s insistence on continually cutting back to him, Bilbo going all Aaron Rodgers and somehow taking out a crew of Goblins by throwing rocks at them, Thranduil’s antler decapitation, on that note, the preposterous amount of decapitations, the Eagles, Radagast majestically riding one of said Eagles into battle, the love triangle still being a thing, all of Thorin’s conflict magically being resolved with no effort on Jackson’s part, Legolas being flown around by a bat, and my personal favorite, Legolas’s hysterically superhuman escape from a falling staircase.

When the best thing you can say about a Middle Earth movie is that it boasts copious amounts of unintentional humor, then I guess it is clear that Jackson has hit a new low. Though oddly enough, the first fifteen minutes of this movie are the best the Hobbit trilogy has to offer. Bard’s take-down of Smaug is the most compelling moment of the film. But all too quickly, the whole affair crumbles into an incomprehensible mess. Once Thorin is reintroduced, the film takes a nosedive and remains in the mire for the duration. And once the battle starts, it is best just to sit back and appreciate the movie for the comedy that it is.

As I mentioned in my Desolation of Smaug review, one of the greatest downfalls of this trilogy is the lack of connection Jackson builds between his characters and the audience. We’ve spent eight plus hours with the Dwarf company, and gun to my head, I couldn’t name half of them. The lack of distinctive characterization in the company of Dwarves is unacceptable. In turn, all the actions on screen hold very little meaning. Swords clang, fighters yell, heroes and villains fall, and I couldn’t care less. One of the greatest strengths of Lord of the Rings is the character driven action, but one of Peter Jackson’s greatest successes in his first trilogy is one of the biggest failures in his second. Often, it is difficult to tell who is fighting who, and it is hard to remember why they’re fighting, and it is impossible to care about any of it. The action is absurd, endless, and in the words of one of the friends I saw the movie with, “such a joke.”

Jackson cannot realistically expect an audience to stick through three movies (marathon in length, of course) without any real drama. I didn’t care about the characters, the situations they experience seem trivial, leading to complete detachment on my part. The movie goes for drama very often. Some “main characters” bite the dust in melodramatic fashion, but I literally didn’t bat an eye. No emotions welled up, not a single tear approached the corner of my eye … except during that Legolas falling staircase scene, but those were tears of laughter. There is one solitary moment when the emotions do hit. Near the beginning of the film, after a few tense scenes, Thorin and Bilbo share a heart-to-heart about the Hobbit’s eventual return to Bag End. It’s a touching little scene, but all too brief.

Jackson makes the strange decision to base a good portion of his “drama” in the Tauriel/Kíli/Legolas love triangle. It’s a slap in the face of any self-respecting movie goer. Tauriel and Kíli probably share less than five scenes in the entire trilogy, and none of them provide any meaningful reason for the two to be together. And yet, by the end, Tauriel is all, “if this is love, then I don’t want it.” That, Mr. Jackson, is not love, and I really wish you did not treat it as such.

It’s no surprise that a movie called “Battle of the Five Armies” has a disturbing lack of Bilbo Baggins. There is simply no room for him during the preposterousness in which the action heroes are indulging. Martin Freeman is far and away the best thing this trilogy has at its disposal, yet Jackson has no qualms in disposing of him. Sure, Bilbo does have a few moments, but whenever he is on screen it feels like a begrudged obligation on Jackson’s part.

Something that has always rubbed me (and a host of others) the wrong way about The Hobbit trilogy is Peter Jackson’s unprecedented reliance on CGI. I doubt there is a single shot in this movie that is not aided by computer generation. Think back to Boromir’s farewell scene from Fellowship of the Ring. That was a simple moment between two actors in a natural environment. And it was far more effective than anything in Battle of the Five Armies. Instead of any semblance of authenticity, the third Hobbit movie is drenched in a visual style that leaves an obnoxiously plastic sheen on every shot.

Perhaps the oddest thing about Battle of the Five Armies is the gross lack of pay-off the film provides. The battle itself is a half-hearted mess that just ends, with no closure whatsoever. The ending to the film (and the entire trilogy) is so brief and slight, I was legitimately shocked when the credits started to roll. Peter Jackson, so excessive in all the wrong ways, somehow manages to be the model of restraint in his closing scenes. It's weak.

Howard Shore returns for one last trip to Middle Earth. Of course, the film he has to write for is infinitely weaker than Lord of the Rings, but Shore manages to do all that he can. His Elf/Tauriel theme is still terrific, and there are numerous references to his previous material. Though I must say, all the winking nods to Lord of the Rings feel out of place. The Hobbit doesn’t deserve to mention Lord of the Rings. As for the end credits song, Billy Boyd's "The Last Goodbye" provides a wonderful finale to a terrible film.

The Battle of the Five Armies mercifully concludes the endless torture that has been The Hobbit. In terms of pure entertainment value (thanks to the countless moments of unintentional humor) this may be the best Hobbit movie of the bunch. But objectively, in terms of quality, this is the most inept film in the entire Middle Earth franchise. After the first two movies, it’s not like The Hobbit deserved any better. Nonetheless, Battle of the Five Armies is a soulless, sloppy, and entirely unsatisfying culmination of the most disappointing trilogy I have ever experienced.

“Go back to your books, your fireplace. Plant your trees, watch them grow. If more of us valued home above gold, it would be a merrier world.” 2.5/10

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