When Peter Jackson first decided to make The Hobbit into two films, some people questioned that choice. And then when he decided it really needed three trips to the theater to tell the entire story in full, the doubt reigned supreme. How would he fill all that space? Who would the heroes be? How would he deal with the tonal discrepancies between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings? But as the sterling quality of the first two Hobbit films clearly showed, all of those concerns were for naught. In Peter Jackson we trust, and who isn’t ready for a movie subtitled The Battle of the Five Armies which, based on the source material, isn’t going to contain much of anything else?
(Editor’s Note: It’s possible that this review may be a little tongue in cheek. Just maybe.) (Also, there may be some minor spoilers beyond what you might normally find in one of our reviews. Nothing that shocking, but minor spoilers all the same.)
To kick things off on this praise-fest, let’s talk about how awesome it is that the movie picks up right where the previous one left off. If you don’t remember the particulars of what each and every one of the major characters was doing at the end of The Desolation of Smaug, not to mention their motivations for doing those things, there’s very little to catch you up here. No sense wasting time; if there’s one thing the Hobbit films are known for, it’s efficiency. Just ask Smaug. He’s dead before the opening titles are finished. It’s almost as though the sequence where he sets fire to Lake Town wasn’t supposed to be split across two movies. Weird.
But let’s not pretend there aren’t character arcs. Thorin, after all, starts the movie as a greedy, treasure mad asshole (though to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why; he’s sitting on literally mountains of gold, more than he’d ever have occasion to make use of; it’s probably not important though) and ends up repentant. And thank goodness it’s not because of anything that happens to any of the other characters. A fever dream sequence full of CGI gold and dragon shadows is much cooler.
Besides, who would Thorin react to? Bilbo? Well, there is a legitimately nice little half-scene where he speaks with Bilbo. But you have to remember, this is The Battle of the Five Armies. That’s a sprawling, all encompassing epic. So we don’t have time to stay with Thorin or even Bilbo for too long. We’ve got to check in on Gandalf and Tauriel and Bard and Thranduil and all those other characters sitting nebulously between second tier folks known only by a single (often physical) character trait and first tier characters that are more well-rounded. They all appear to be important. I mean, Thranduil is clearly meant to be in the mold of Denethor, Bard is like Aragorn, Gandalf is Gandalf, and Tauriel sits somewhere between Arwen and Legolas. All you have to do is watch ten or so hours of The Lord of the Rings first and you’ll know exactly who these characters are.
Besides, they’re not what we’re here to see anyways. (Although if there’s a secondary interest there for you, let me assure you this movie has one of the best comic relief characters since Star Wars: Episode I) No, we’re here to see A MOTHERF*****G BATTLE OF FIVE DIFFERENT ARMIES!!! And oh, the movie does not disappoint. If you were worried that somehow Peter Jackson and co. were going to cram in a bunch of other non-action-y stuff that doesn’t belong, be assured that’s all kept to a minimum. There’s a little bit of setup time, but before long elves are allied with men, who face off against dwarves, but soon they all turn to face one orc army…on and on it goes! And we don’t even have to worry about individuals half the time like we did in The Lord of the Rings. Instead, we get to watch army formations. Remember the elvish formation in the prologue to The Lord of the Rings, when they were attacking Sauron in Mordor? The way they all moved in unison and attacked the orcs? There’s at least three or four little bits in this movie that are at least that cool. Man, army formations are fun to watch, especially when they’re all CGI. Everything is just visibly so much crisper when it’s made by the precision of a computer.
But not only that, since so much of the movie is a battle, there’s not a lot of dialogue. If you like grunts and shouts and battle cries, this movie is made for you. Oh, and subtitles, because there are about three languages beside English that are spoken at one point or another. All that’s probably a good thing, because, and I have to be honest, The Battle of the Five Armies is not a perfect movie. It’s close, but the dialogue holds it back some. Besides multiple people saying some type of orc or monster was “bred for a single purpose: war,” a lot of the dialogue seems – funny enough – ripped from the nearest rom-com. Why does the love hurt so much? “Because it was real.” The romance between Tauriel and Kili is deep and affecting, of course, but the dialogue, *tsk*, it’s really holding it back.
The Verdict: 1 out of 5
Wait, what? How could a movie so fantastic be one out of…
You know what, I can’t keep this up anymore. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a bad movie. Just bad. There’s very little here that is reminiscent of what you would generally refer to as a “plot” or a “narrative.” Or more damningly, “compelling character arcs.” This is a bloated mess that director Peter Jackson somehow still seems to believe in, but I can’t muster a reaction any stronger than intense apathy. The most interesting part of the entire movie was a scene where Elrond, Saruman, and Galadriel show up to free Gandalf from the clutches of Sauron, a part that is not in The Hobbit (the book) and is only interesting if you already know some of the background lore of Middle-Earth and want to see the Elvish rings of power on display.
Also, the Eagles again? Dear god, I’m tired of them swooping in to save everything when it’s nearly too late.