Vic Millar’s review published on Letterboxd:
Well, that's the worst thing I endured in 2014.
I mean ho-ly shit people, what did I just watch? That was absolute nonsense. And I'm gonna rant about it for a bit.
- The "desolation of Smaug" occurs in the first 10 minutes of this movie, despite that being the title of the last movie
- WHO ARE THE FIVE ARMIES?? Okay so there are the dwarves, the elves and the orcs. That's three. Then some orc reinforcements come, so does that count as the fourth? Or are they just more of the third army? Then there are some eagles and bears and goblins and other random shit, and a reindeer because fuck it why not, and then a few farmers with pitchforks, so I guess one of those counts as the fifth titular army?
- WHERE ARE THE FIVE ARMIES? Fuck me this movie has no sense of geographical mapping, and for a movie where the whole damn thing is a battle to the point where the movie is named after it, you'd thing Jackson would give us some damn sense of where everything is. The one true moment in this movie is when a character says "There is another army coming in from the North!" and Bilbo spins around in a circle confused and then asks "Which way is North?" At least someone gets my confusion.
- Why do I care about any of this shit? The battle is happening for a pile of gold, but everyone already seems pretty financially set, and also who are they going to use the gold on if every species is at war with each other? Seems like currency is pretty fucked at this point anyway. But they also say that the mountain is a nice strategic position if there ever was a war, but this feels more like a throw away line and not enough to actually justify the entire stakes of the final film in a fucking trilogy.
- Also, this is a TRILOGY. I've spent eight damn hours with these useless characters and I can't for the life of me tell you a single fucking thing about them. Not their name, not their backstory, not their personality, not their motivation, nothing. There is a hobbit named Bilbo but I still don't know why he is involved in all this, he just turns invisible occasionally and spends the entire battle throwing rocks (I am absolutely not exaggerating on this point).
- For two hours of non-stop action, there is no competent action direction here. The staging is boring, the choreography shows no imagination, it's all video-gamey looking and chopped up to drivel in the editing room. Also this movie felt like it was edited down for a PG rating, because even in a PG-13 rating we can see a few drops of blood now and then.
- What in flying fuck is up with the writing here? I mean the writer's conception of a dramatic arc is laughable. In one scene, Legolas brings up out of no where that his mother died. A few scenes later, his father tells him that his mother loved him. Compelling elvian drama right there. Or a character will tell a woman that her love isn't real, then the very next scene they have together tell her that it is. And this is supposed to be a dramatic arc with emotional impact! Characters die who I swear I haven't seen before, and it is treated as a huge dramatic slow-motion thing that sets off the entire third act. Who the fuck are these people? Why does the majority of the conflict rest on Thorin being a dick for an hour and a half over some inexplicable plot device called "Dragon Sickness?" How is this interesting or compelling or entertaining to anyone?
- Peter Jackson chill the fuck out on the CGI, this whole thing is a cartoon to the point where when a real tree showed up in the final 10 minutes I thought I had passed out and another movie had started.
- Fuck me the editing in this movie. The "battle" begins, but then we start following other side plots and fights, cutting back and forth for no reason. Some characters are forgotten about for entire 45 minute chunks, or just simply exit the movie entirely (is Luke Evans even in the last hour of this movie?) Also the battle - you know, the big battle the movie is titled after - just ENDS. We never even SEE IT. We see it begin, even though all the CGI armies look the same and there is no sense of geographical understanding, but at least we understand that a battle is happening. Then we cut to people fighting one-on-one on some ice field somewhere and then the battle is just over, but we never see it, so how did whoever won - and who did win? - win the damn battle?
- Why is the unibrowed side character given so much screen time? Is he meant to be comic relief? At one point he is given a physical gag where he can't swim in 6 inches of water, while women and children are literally sobbing around him because their entire families and homes have been scorched by a dragon 5 minutes earlier. The tone of this movie is all over the place.
This movie is complete and utter garbage, the worst of an already abysmal trilogy, and I am a worser man for sitting through it.