Review By Fred Topel
For those of you who are new to my writing, I have not been a fan of the Hobbit movies. I reviewed the first two for Crave Online, and I kept hoping with the second or third I could say, “They really turned this ship around,” but they didn’t. In fact, I’ve been calling these movies The Horriblit, because they’re not very good.
I completely support the idea of making movies just for the fans. Believe me, I have benefited from many such franchises. I am Franchise Fred after all. But, you didn’t need to be a fan to appreciate The Lord of the Rings. You could still marvel at the grandeur of the production and scope of the story. Without those elements, you’re just looking at a CG show where you can tell they’re just stretching it out to make another trilogy.
The beginning of The Battle of the Five Armies is what the end of The Defecation of Smaug should have been. There’s no point saving it for the third movie if it’s not going to impact the rest of the story. So that happens, which is the climax we were expecting in the last movie, and then the whole rest of the movie is filler.
This may actually be the most plodding of the three prequels, although I’m not going to watch the dwarf dinner again for comparison. Leaders of the five armies talk a lot about preparing for battle. The dwarves are looking for their stone and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) actually knows where it is. Thorin has a new arc because the film needs some sort of turning point. All it is is that his greed changes him. Does that warrant a whole new movie? Greed is bad?
The last two Horriblits were bloated but at least we knew where they were going. This seems completely made up. Were there details about these battles in the appendices? The elf kings and queen fight some ghosts which means stuntmen in wigs and armor flail around and they add a CG enemy later. Then they use their magic blasts, and set up Saruman (Christopher Lee)’s betrayal because stuff we already know.
The armies are massive. Yay, CGI can multiply rows of soldiers infinitely. The battles just mean that characters swing swords at each other or shoot arrows until one of them dies. I can appreciate the idea of a battle that keeps going and going. Peter Jackson is great at that, and I will defend every frame of his King Kong. I’ll even watch that extended cut because there is so much pure love in every beat that it’s palpable. Here, it feels like, “Uh, what else we got?”
Big monsters smash rocks. Give me Rock Biters any day. CG animals parkour alongside the mountain. Legolas parkours some weightless acrobatics. I suppose it’s well conceived in theory but the weightlessness robs it of any thrills. At least characters who die stay dead. I wasn’t invested in anyone surviving, but the one dirty trick they didn’t pull was the Marvel “and he’s alive again” trick. That is saying a lot considering they have magic in Middle Earth.
The Battle of the Five Armies is actually the shortest Horriblit of all, running only about two hours and 15 minutes before credits role. Yet it’s the worst one because it feels the most pointless and makes the least sense. The action was where there was the most room for creative embellishment, because I don’t recall Tolkien specifying choreography. These sequences have just lost all semblance of narrative so now they’re just crosscutting highlights. The artwork under the end credits is nice though. At least that’s one good thing I can say.
Mark my words, this will not be the last of this series. They will find another way to continue it, or to do another set of films in the world of Middle Earth. A complete original would be a lot better, because they won’t be pretending a single book is a trilogy. Maybe then they’ll finally turn this ship around.
Rating: Don’t See It