Okay, so my initial reaction to the final Peter Jackson Middle-Earth movie wasn’t as positive as I was expecting. I actually quite liked a lot of the second Hobbit movie — Smaug, for example, was excellent — and I was fully expecting PJ to nail the landing with Part Three. I thought he’d be able to pull all the threads together and deliver a satisfying finish, just as he did with Return of the King ten years ago. Sure, he doesn’t have the wealth of material to draw on that he did back then — The Hobbit is no Lord of the Rings, of course (and it’s not supposed to be). But surely he would have some plan for Part Three, right? Some way to pull it all together?
Sadly, no. “Battle of the Five Armies” is the least of the three Hobbit movies. It feels bloated and poorly constructed. Massive monsters (the rock-boring worms) are introduced in one scene, then never heard from again. Whole fleets of giant bats are introduced, take Legolas for one short CGI flight, then vanish utterly. The Battle itself becomes a mess of lousy CGI and weak characterization. We learn that Smaug’s hoard is cursed with dragon-sickness, which is strange, as it was the curse on the hoard (and on the mind of the hoarder) that supposedly drew Smaug in the first place. So that means the hoard gets cursed twice, which just seems like poor storytelling.
In short, I was utterly disappointed with “Battle of the Five Armies”. I’m a massive “Lord of the Rings” fan and have watched those movies more times than I can count. In addition, I’m also a Tolkien nerd and have read every single word he’s ever written multiple times, including “The Silmarillion” and “The Lost Tales” (both of which I utterly love).
I think Peter Jackson has done an amazing job with Middle-Earth, and I was fully expecting that to continue with the Hobbit movies. And he had an entire decade (!!!) to work on the script. My mind reels at how he and his partners could have botched it so terribly. Part of the fault, of course, lies in the source material. J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” is a charming, briskly-paced children’s fantasy, not an epic saga a la “Lord of the Rings”, and if translated to the screen it should have been one movie, two at the absolute most. When stretched out into three long movies, it becomes bloated and hollow, even with the extra material involving the Necromancer filling it out. Then add all the crappy CGI, odd story decisions (a dwarf-elf romance “could” work, maybe, but not like this) and general excess (Legolas surfing on spiders, leaping from dwarf head to dwarf head) and you get a hot mess. If the orcs had been achieved practically, I could enjoy these movies a lot more, but the dodgy CGI through which they were achieved saps my enjoyment a great deal.
Okay, back to “Battle of the Five Armies”, specifically. Bilbo has one big heroic contribution to the novel’s central conflict, slaying the dragon. He’s the one that spots the missing scale and relays the information to Bard, who utilizes it to kill Smaug. In the movie this never happens. Although the moment is set up in Part Two, when indeed Bilbo sees the missing scale, he’s never able to do anything with the information in Part Three. Bard independently sees the missing scale and kills Smaug (in a very anti-climactic fight, by the way). So what was the point of Bilbo seeing the missing scale in the first place? It surely wasn’t to set up the idea that indeed the scale was missing, as that’s achieved during the flashback in Part Two. So that whole story thread went nowhere and robbed Bilbo of his greatest glory.
Which brings me to the Arkenstone. If Bilbo helping to slay Smaug is to be denied him, then surely he can be an effective hero elsewhere, right? Maybe he can steal the Arkenstone and stop the battle between the good guys.
Nope. He steals the stone, alright, but the battle goes on as planned, or begins to, anyway, before the arrival of the CGI orcs, after which Bilbo does very little. He’s giving a brief mission to do at one point and accomplishes it, but for little story gain. He essentially does nothing to warrant his status as main character throughout the entire final movie, which is a shame as he was fairly effective in Part Two, rescuing the dwarves repeatedly and infiltrating Smaug’s lair, etc. But any hobbity heroism is thrown out the window in Part Three for lame CGI battles.
And they are lame. I could forgive this movie a lot if the battles — er, Battle — kicked ass. But it doesn’t. It goes on and on, and on some more, but it’s never a tenth as involving as the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Hell, it’s played for laughs! Afrid, the weasel-faced sidekick to the Master, has one comic misadventure after another while at the same time tension is supposed to be mounting up. I kind of enjoy Alfrid, broad as he is, but his antics undermine what should be the most gripping part of the whole narrative.
Sigh. I’m running out of steam here. I think I’m going to leave off of the rant for the moment, leaving the possibility open to return to it at some future time. I can’t even summon the passion for “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies” to properly lambast it.
I will, however, pick up the Extended Edition the first day it comes out, and I’ll eagerly watch it, hoping beyond hope that somehow, some way, Peter Jackson is able to fix his last foray into Middle-Earth in that version, if not in this.
If nothing else, hopefully someone will make a great fan edit out of these movies.