I don’t think you will find too many people that will dispute the fact that the book The Hobbit in no way warranted three movies let alone three overly long movies, but with Middle-earth source material drying up the studios convinced Peter Jackson to help them make as much money as possible. The parallel between MGM and New Lines’s blatant cash grab and Thorin Oakenshield’s descent into greedy madness was not lost on me.
The third installment starts right where the last one left off with a pissed off Smaug heading to Lake-town to let loose with some fiery vengeance, poor old Bard (Luke Evans) has been locked up by the corrupt Master of Lake-Town (Stephen Fry) and his stooge Alfrid (Ryan Gage) so he is at first unable to fight off the fire breathing dragon.
Now the destruction we behold under this attack is spectacular but once again Peter Jackson can’t help himself by overdoing action sequences, Bard’s escape from captivity is not only stupid but to a plot character coincidental. It’s as if Jackson was traumatized by Rube Goldberg Machine as a child and for some cathartic reason must now use such devices in every bloody action scene.
And what of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), in the book he was instrumental in defeating Smaug as upon his learning of the dragon’s missing scale a noble thrush delivers this news to Bard who with just a regular arrow brings down Smaug, now in the movies Bilbo learned of this vulnerability but as he never has a chance to pass this information along now becomes irrelevant. Bard spots the missing scale on his own and uses the last of the “Black Arrows” to kill Smaug thus negating Bilbo’s importance in bringing down the dragon. Why a professed fan of Tolkien would make that change is beyond me. I assume it has something to do with him being against talking birds, because who would buy something like that in a fantasy story about dwarves and dragons?
In the first two movies Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) was a bit of a dick, but once he and the dwarves reclaim Erebor he goes right off the deep end into evil Scrooge McDuck territory and this brings up the biggest failing of the series, and especially the conclusion, and that is how quickly I stopped caring for any of these characters. Between Thorin’s gold fever, Bilbo’s advanced onset ring dementia, Bard and Alfrid’s constant conflicts, and the love story between Kili (Aidan Turner) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) I found myself so overloaded that my only defence was to shout, “Stop, I just don’t give a shit!”
One of the weirdest elements in this movie is Jackson’s obsession with the character of Alfrid, who is just a one-note toady and not all that interesting, and once Lake-Town was destroyed that should have been the last we ever saw of him, but now he keeps popping up again and again until I’m up out of my seat screaming, “Will someone please just kill that asshole already!” I know Jackson had to add stuff to stretch this story into a trilogy but I would have taken anything over that, even more, drippy dwarf/elf love that dare not speak its name.
Now I’m not saying this film is without merit, Peter Jackson and company bring some pretty amazing visuals to life and I cannot say any actor gave a bad performance, well maybe Ryan Gage as Alfrid kinda sucked, but most of the cast was hampered by a script that went for the cinematic spectacle over true character moments. When the Five Armies do clash it is pretty remarkable, and we finally get to see what an army of dwarves looks like and I must say I wouldn’t want to face them in battle. Seriously, Thorin’s cousin Dáin (Billy Connolly) constantly head-butts helmeted orcs with his bare noggin. Yikes!
• Bard must have rolled a natural 20 with his +4 arrow.
• The villains all had way too many, “Oh shit, he’s not actually dead!” moments.
• Were those bat creatures from Skull Island?
• I’ll admit the spectral nine that will become the Ring Wraiths were pretty sweet looking.
• Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) rocks the Dark Queen thing really well.
• Legolas (Orlando Bloom) steering a peg-legged troll was damn ridiculous.
• Bilbo Baggins, Action Hobbit! Really, was that necessary?
• Will elf king Thanduill (Lee Pace) ever discover the true meaning of Christmas?
Thus closes the final chapter of The Hobbit and until Peter Jackson decides to make a quadrilogy out of the Farmer Giles of Ham this will be our last trip to Middle-earth for a while and I for one could use the break.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
Movie Rank - 6/10
Peter Jackson gives us the shortest installment yet but as it shouldn’t have been a trilogy in the first place this does not help. The action is at times fun and exciting but then occasionally slides into the over the top and silly, thus resulting in an uneven movie where we fail to emotionally engage with the many of the characters.