The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is as ever directed by Peter Jackson and draws on a script he helped to write alongside Guillermo Del Toro and a couple of others I don’t know who worked on The Lord of The Rings trilogy. It stars Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Orlando Bloom as Legolas, Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, Luke Evans as Bard and Hugo Weaving as Elrond.
The third and final installment in the franchise picks up immediately after the second with Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) heading towards Lake-town intent on destruction. He is brought down by Bard and word spreads that the treasure at the heart of The Lonely Mountain is no longer being protected by a dragon. The Elves march on Thorin and his small band determined to take back some ancient heirlooms while the residents of Lake-town demand that Thorin lives up to his bargain. What none of them know is that the Orcs are on the rise.
This is going to be one of those reviews where I feel the need to make some disclaimers upfront so the reader may fully understand the context of my comments. I am not a Peter Jackson fan. I haven’t watched his very early work but I hate King Kong (2005) with a passion akin to Man of Steel (2013). I don’t fully understand the excitement about The Lord of The Rings and the first of the Hobbit films was really dull (although I don’t think I’m alone in this). He pulled things back a little in the second installment but Mr Jackson has failed miserably with this film.
The start is a bit of a mess with Smaug laying waste to the town before the survivors seek shelter and the story swings back to Thorin holed up with his gold. The problem is that it feels like the climax of the film not the beginning. Going back to Thorin there is a lot of moping around as various dwarfs pontificate about the ‘Dragon’s Disease’ he his suffering from as greed has inevitably taken him over. Then why not do something about it? If this isn’t that big a surprise why the hell did you support him on his quest in the first place?
The final act which goes on, and on, then on a little bit more … oh wait not finished yet, is a big mindless hack fest. It’s impossible to feel any emotion for what’s going on as it’s just massed ranks of CGI characters going at each other. There’s no sense of peril. It becomes very problematic in the final showdown with the Orcs – I lost track of who the main bad guy was as many of them looked the same. We also have to talk about the CGI. I accept that computer wizardry is used in almost every film nowadays even when you don’t think it is. However, as with the last two Hobbitt movies some of the shots are so obviously CGI it’s embarrassing for a film with such a big budget and they don’t flow right. I’ve seen computer games with more realism.
There are other things that rub me up the wrong way which shows how far this film failed to hold my attention. The Elvish army disappears mid way through the fight. There are tens of thousands of them at the beginning and they are having no problems slaughtering the Orcs. However, we then see Elrond fighting almost single handed on an over sized Reindeer with just a few trusted soldiers. Where the hell did the rest of them go? We also have a Hobbit film with no Hobbit. Martin Freeman barely features and having seen all three films I have absolutely no idea why Gandalf made the trip to The Shire to fetch him. The films are about Thorin and his efforts to reclaim his inheritance.
The film is a massive disappointment. While not expecting a masterpiece the trailer hinted at a great epic battle. My suggestion is to watch the trailer a few times and imagine the film you always wanted to end this trilogy. I’m not saying this film will make it onto my list of worst of 2014 but it’s on the fringes. Go watch the Penguin film, it’s much funnier and takes half the time. Win, win all round. One final thing – look out for the Michael Bayism as Thorin walks slow motion with the sun in the background.