“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” comes on the back of one of my least favourite movies of all time, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”, which I felt was both a waste of time and a disgracefully boring film. So, it’s fair to say that I didn’t have high hopes for this movie; I thought it would be terrible and I was very conflicted about seeing it… my verdict now is that I wish I never had. All my fears for this franchise were realised as Middle Earth fizzled out and died in front of my eyes! The movie ended with a predictably awful set up for “The Lord of the Rings”, giving no closure to this series and marring my memory of what I consider to be the best trilogy of all time.
The story of this film is probably familiar to anyone who has read the source material, but I haven’t read the book, and to be honest I’ve never really felt the need to. For me “The Hobbit” always felt like a small scale adventure when compared to “The Lord of the Rings”, so I ignored it and basically acted as though it didn’t exist; how I wish Peter Jackson had done the same.
This movie could’ve been a nice prologue to “The Lord of the Rings” if it had been one film with a pleasant tone, but instead Jackson milked it for all it was worth and made three very average films. If these movies had been made before “The Lord of the Rings” then I don’t think they would’ve grossed half as much money, and I also have doubts as to whether they would’ve gone forward with “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy at all, because I don’t think the hype would’ve been there without the quality of the original Middle Earth trilogy. It’s a shame and truly baffling that these films are so terrible when you consider that Peter Jackson made “Lord of the Rings : Return of the King” into one of the most iconic movies in recent history, and took home Oscars as a result, but I feel that the success of that film and its predecessors shields him from a lot of criticism, and it’s about time that changed.
“The Hobbit” series has seriously changed my perspective on “The Lord of the Rings”, because I feel as though to make a second trilogy and fail this miserably demonstrates that without a genuinely epic story to back up his direction, Jackson isn’t that special a filmmaker. Now when I watch “The Lord of the Rings” movies I notice all the little issues which before I could just ignore for the sake of the amazing story that the films had, and I think of what the film would’ve been if Jackson had had more toys to play with. It saddens me that because of “The Hobbit” I can no longer enjoy some of my favourite movies in the same way that I used to, and I think that this is one of the reasons why I hate this franchise, (and this latest movie), SO much.
As you might expect, the plot for this movie really didn’t feel as though it belonged in a standalone film. As advertised, “The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies” chronicles the battle of five armies, all attempting to seize control of the Lonely Mountain. That’s about all that this film has to offer, but the battle itself is just a lot of awful computer animation, along with feigned tension. There is a subplot shoehorned into the movie about the Arkenstone, which basically plays the role that the ring played for Gollum (Andy Serkis) in “The Lord of the Rings” films, but for Thorin (Richard Armitage) in this film. It’s an artefact which holds sway over Thorin and makes him act irrationally, capturing his mind and becoming the main object of his desire.
This side story does little to add to the quality of the film as a whole, because it’s being used as a cheap plot device to add drama to a movie which is sadly lacking any real substance, and it simply feels recycled and tired given the fact that it comes from the same director as “The Lord of the Rings” series. (SPOILER ALERT) This story is also present so that Thorin can be seen as heroic at the end of the film, as a substitute for genuine character development, because Thorin bites the dust and Jackson wants the audience to feel something for him before that event happens.
The performances in the movie were extremely poor, especially from Evangeline Lily (Tauriel), who was just plain terrible. It’s a shame to see an actress of her calibre sink so low in this film, because I really loved her in “Lost” and I’m hoping that she can put in a great performance in “Ant-Man”, but there’s no denying that she was disappointing here. I don’t think her acting was particularly helped by Jackson’s direction or the writing for this movie, but that’s no excuse for her lack of chemistry with co-star Aiden Turner (Kili). The main aspect of her character is that she’s in love with Kili, and that’s her motivation for staying alive through the battle, in a sense it’s what she’s fighting for, and yet her feelings for him are never really portrayed through the performance; she comes across as indifferent and uninterested.
The one bright spark in the movie was Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo Baggins, which was at least acceptable. I feel that he was well casted, and that in another world with another director he would’ve been an integral part of a great film. The problem here is that he’s wasted in what is effectively a supporting role, even if it is a role which he is perfectly suited to; he delivers his lines well and his character is interesting, but the film never feels as though it’s actually about him.
The great thing about “The Lord of the Rings” movies, (which I know I keep coming back to, but they are a big part of why this film got made, and also a reference point regarding what this film could’ve been), was that they had a variety of cool characters, but you always kept coming back to Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) at key times. They were the main characters, along with Aragon (Viggo Mortensen), not just because they were in charge of delivering the ring of power, but because they carried the message of the film.
The hobbits stood for so many things that made those movies important; they were up against incredible odds and forces beyond their control, and yet they always remained optimistic and brave in the face of adversity. They never lost who they were, (except for that one moment of wavering in the middle of Mount Doom, but we’ll forget that), and when they achieved their goal they didn’t return as celebrities, they didn’t want any credit, they valued their normal lives and were happy to return to them, realising that they were lucky just to be alive.
Bilbo doesn’t carry the same sense of integrity that Frodo did, and he also doesn’t feel so up against the odds. He has help and he isn’t doing anything interesting in either this film or its predecessors; he isn’t up against the Nazgul, or carrying the fate of the world on his shoulders, he’s just along for the ride, acting as a burglar for a group of annoying dwarves. Freeman isn’t the problem, but the fact that he’s given nothing important to do and also given very few meaningful lines, means that his character has no gravitas, and therefore never reaches his full potential.
My biggest problem with this film is the CGI; it was absolutely and undoubtedly terrible. The standard has been set, following films like “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “X-Men : Days of Future Past”, and this movie just doesn’t live up to those high expectations. It was clear from the very first second that the graphics were going to be bad, but I was genuinely shocked by how appalling they were. The argument against this would be that Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) still looked cool and was impressive, but that argument becomes void when it’s clear that the area he’s filling is clearly computer generated and looks unrealistic. Lake Town didn’t look remotely real, and I might as well have been watching “Sin City 2 : A Dame To Kill For” again with how cartoonish those opening scenes looked. It was distracting and ugly, belonging more in a game world than on the big screen.
(SPOILER ALERT) The marketing for “The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies” focused on Smaug, and anyone who hadn’t read the book (like me) didn’t know that he wouldn’t be around for very long, so it felt like a scam from the filmmakers when he died after what must have been ten minutes. Dragons sell tickets, awful films about lacklustre battles with underdeveloped characters do not, and that just adds to my negative opinion of this film and the whole “Hobbit” series. These films have been one disgusting cash grab after another, and I feel ashamed to have supported them by paying to see two out of the three movies.
There were many many more problems with this film which I feel are worth mentioning, but to go into each one in detail would mean that this review would become incredibly long, and probably quite tedious towards the end, so I feel that now is the time to step back and simply list the issues, instead of trying to fully elaborate on each one:
1) The sound effects were often out of place, for example, when orcs were getting their heads slashed off it sounded as though a hammer was crashing against metal.
2) There were plenty of ridiculous scenes to ‘enjoy’, such as when Legolas (Orlando Bloom) ran on a series of falling rocks, in order to leap onto the top of an orc and perform a hurricanrana (yes that really did happen, Legolas suddenly became Rey Mysterio).
3) (SPOILER ALERT) Everyone seemed to be invincible, until the very end, when the film felt it was time to kill off some of the main cast in order to create false tension and heartache.
4) (SPOILER ALERT) The battle was terrible, and didn’t really resolve itself on screen. Things simply ended without any resolution; the eagles just sorted everything out again.
5) The inclusion of the giant worms made no sense, because they were clearly working in tandem with the orcs, and yet they didn’t fight for them, despite the fact that they could’ve done genuine damage.
6) The love story was an absolute travesty, and I actually sighed with relief when it was finally over.
“The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies” is one of the most boring and badly written movies I have ever had the displeasure to see in a cinema. I hated every minute of it, and I have no positive comments to make; the acting, the script, and the effects were all terrible. I didn’t start writing this review with the intention of scoring it quite so low, but once I sat down and thought about how I really felt, I realised that there was nothing good to say about this movie, and so it rivals “Lucy” as one of the worst films in my recent memory.