Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Movie Review

For the third and final installment in Peter Jackson’s bloated trilogy, The Hobbit, I couldn’t bear to sit through An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug to refresh my memory before trudging through the morass of The Battle of the Five Armies. The predictable result is that I had completely forgotten who some secondary characters were, what they had done previously, and why I should care about them at all.

The screenplay is still credited to Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro and it is still just as preposterous. This chapter picks up precisely where the last one left us with the dragon Smaug on his way to desolate Lake Town and all its inhabitants. Why I was supposed to care about some man who had been jailed I can’t quite remember. I think he was perhaps destined to slay the dragon, which he does. And then the baker’s dozen of dwarfs, led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) guard the treasure that Smaug left behind. The citizens of Lake Town feel owed something to help them rebuild, the elves have a claim on it, as well. And then an army of orcs are marching on them as well.

The movie sure lives up to its title. The running time is almost exclusively devoted to a massive battle involving five armies. Dwarfs, elves, men, and orcs will have a massive showdown. As the battle commences, the creatures from Tremors launch from underground – Gandalf (Ian McKellen) knows what they are called and helpfully announces it for us, though I still can’t remember – and one character says, “Oh come on.” My thoughts exactly. When does this stop? It was the perfect metaphor for what Jackson turned this story into. It’s a horrible shaggy dog story.

Evangeline Lilly is back as some she-elf who is in love with one of the dwarfs. Damned if I can remember what happened between them before. Lee Pace is some blondie elf like Legolas (Orlando Bloom), who continues to do crazy awesome stuff in battle because, hey, that’s what he did in The Lord of the Rings. Everyone fights. Lots of CGI characters are slaughtered. Billy Connolly turns up as a dwarf cousin of Thorin hidden behind makeup and only recognizable because of his distinctive Scottish accent. Some characters who have been with us since the beginning die and I felt nothing because after more than seven hours of this nonsense it’s just not possible to feel anything anymore.

The story telling and the character building in this trilogy is just lazy. Jackson really earned it in The Lord of the Rings. When Boromir dies, I felt something. I knew him as a man and he was flawed and vulnerable, but protected the Hobbits where it counted. Thorin’s story just doesn’t have the same emotional import. Likewise with Bilbo (Martin Freeman), who is presumably the main character, although he’s really relegated to a supporting role in this film. This should be his story. The Hobbit trilogy should round out his character and show how he changes over time and a journey. He was given a great scene in each of the first two films, but he’s lost this time.

The Battle of the Five Armies is probably the dullest and most superfluous films of the year. I’m bored even writing about it.

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