johnlink ranks THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (2014)

Moments after watching the end of Peter Jackson’s HOBBIT trilogy, I find myself writing this article after 11:00 PM and starting the original trilogy as I scribe my thoughts. If nothing else, that HOBBIT trilogy is a heckuva nine hour trailer for the original LORD OF THE RINGS films.

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I watched THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (2014) on 8.17.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

First of all, it should be noted, this last film of the HOBBIT prequel trilogy is easily the least satisfying of all six LORD OF THE RINGS films. The opening, involving the slaying of the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), feels as though it should have been the end of the second film. Soon enough we have the meeting of elves, dwarves, men, beasts, and orcs. They all battle over a treasure, though the orcs are fighting more just to kill. The last hour and a half of this 150 minute movie is the titular battle. And, so, this is more action film than anything.

This is a far more humorless films than all of its predecessors. A late scene involving Gandalf (Ian McKellan) lighting a pipe in front of the impatient Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), is a too-late reminder of how far this movie strayed from the lightheartedness which had made all these movies so likable. Instead, we have a lot of heavy decisions and angry men.

All of that leads to plenty of battle. That’s not bad in an of itself. The climactic beats on a mountain with the King of the Dwarves (Richard Armitage) fighting the worst of the Orcs with the help of Bilbo and the elves Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) is a really well crafted finale. The problem, here, is that we have to get through an hour of generic battle. By this, the sixth, movie in the series, we are well versed in war. This BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is the least successful and it might be the longest (though it just may feel that way). The CGI is made for 3D and uses tragically little practical effect. The battle is spread thin geographically and never feels all that dangerous because we haven’t really met most of the key players. The battle turns on a battalion of thirteen dwarves deciding to start the fight (with clever editing making it such that the humans miles away suddenly make the same decision to fight harder too). The war is bloodless: no women or children are harmed, decapitated heads produce no gore, and violent hacks are PG-13 made. It all just feels so much more underwhelming (or is that less overwhelming) than all of the other movies that came before.

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This movie also contains the hands-down worst scene of the entire series. In making the decision to become good again, that Dwarf King has a ‘vision’ and ‘hears voices’ which culminate in a sea of gold enveloping him and swallowing him whole. The performance of Armitage is not to fault here. He does what he can. But the film is so generically voiced and so laughably edited as to make this whole thing feel like a bad HOBBIT parody rather than a scene in its own right.

And perhaps it is not fair to compare this movie to all the others in the movie series. But, yet, they are all Peter Jackson films in the same universe and this movie was the culminating plan of this newest trilogy. Should THE HOBBIT have been told in two films instead of three? Most certainly. Where the original LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy was enhanced by having 12 hours of extended editions, THE HOBBIT feels like it would have been better served by editing itself down to seven hours. People would have paid money for two 210 minute movies, even if they would have grumbled about it.

Disparaging this film as I may, I don’t want to take away from the talent of the actors. Everyone comes to play. When listing this movie’s faults, the lack of Martin Freeman’s Bilbo having the chance to be the central figure he was in the first two is chief among them. McKellan and Blanchett and Lee and Weaving do all they are asked to as always. Nobody lets this film down in the realm of performance, it is all just too bloated with CGI to give them a real world within which to exist.

The last moments of the film have Bilbo and Gandalf heading back to the Shire. We are once again given legitimate outdoor locales and the natural beauty of New Zealand standing in for Middle Earth. It is just so unfortunate that so little of this was allowed to exist. Peter Jackson was so fortunate to film the original trilogy in a time when the real world was allowed to be, and the CGI enhanced it. By the time we hit 2014, the opposite is the unfortunate truth.

SCORES

FILM: 4; MOVIE: 6; ACTING: 8; WRITING: 4

4+6+8+4+0=22

FINAL SCORE: 5.5 out of 10

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~ by johnlink00 on August 17, 2015.

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