The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Fran Walsh & Phillipa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro

My own personal opinion is that Peter Jackson is a master of Middle Earth. He has the tone, the setting, the visuals, the characters, he has it all down to a certain level of perfection that one imagines he must have retreated from his real world life to spend a few years residing along with the elves, the hobbits, the dwarfs, all for research for his films. These last 15+ years of spending time in such a magical place have been an impressive way to spend a career, and I am sure he would spend another 15+ for another such journey. For all of his hard work, plenty of fans have flocked to theaters to be as included and enthralled with the adventures of a few hobbits as his level of efforts appears to provide.

In this, the final of The Hobbit trilogy, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarfs enter into their mountainside kingdom, full of treasure and gold, after the retreat of the deadly dragon Smaug has finally left it vacant. Smaug, after terrorizing the nearby town of humans, is slain by Bard (Luke Evans), who leads his beaten people to the mountainside for refuge. We soon find that the Orcs and Elves are also descending upon the mountain, all in hopes of staking a claim on some or all of the treasures hidden within. Such a massive gathering over the coveted gold can only mean one thing: a massive battle.

And a massive battle is precisely what we get, whether want it or not. Unfortunately, for a film that is two and a half hours long, seemingly two hours of that is one elongated battle scene. As I have said, Jackson does it so well, but for the crowning conclusion to his time in Middle Earth, I was quite disappointed in its slight concentration on character and plot. Touches are sprinkled about to hint at emotional connection with characters we have grown to know over the years, but their payoffs are often overshadowed by the next big effect. Not surprisingly, the film is chock full of impressive CGI, but CGI nonetheless. In many ways it plays as a huge video game where the viewer doesn’t get a say in how things will play out.

This much could have been expected at this point in the series, and it is almost hard to fault the film for it, just as it would be hard to fault it for being a pure companion piece, a film not capable of standing on its own and completely dependent upon having seen the previous films in the series. Because Jackson is so fully immersed in Middle Earth, it would be hard to convince him of the importance of such a film structure that would lend itself to independent viewing. It would likewise be hard to convince me that it would be necessary. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the film for what it is. It is massively impressive from a technical view, and does feel right at home with the other films.

Unfortunately for me, I am not in love with the world Jackson has created, especially as presented in this film. The Battle of the Five Armies sees multitudes of men, beings rather, gathering together and slaughtering each other over a simple deadly sin, Greed. The handling of humor, a trademark of the series, is too often paired quite closely to an important dramatic moment, causing the humor to fall flat and feel awkward in places. In this way it wants to be too many things at the same time, all the while being overly simple. There is a certain charm which permeates. Freeman’s Bilbo is particularly charming and passionate for instance. These elements make this film possible to swallow, but otherwise, I would not hesitate to call it common dreck. A film with a huge budget, a huge fan base, I am not worried for its results, or even its fans responses. I am worried about Peter Jackson post-Middle Earth, especially if he teams again with his writers here.

** – Poor


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