The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Having seen this and the other two Hobbit films just once each, and only the theatrical versions, it is hard to say which is the best and which is the worst. All have had well-done sequences, and all have had unnecessary ones with too much CGI and too little character development. It doesn't matter if the CGI is state of the art, when it is overused it actually detracts from the time that could be devoted to character interactions. In this (hopefully) last Middle Earth epic from Peter Jackson, the dwarves (aside from Thorin) and Bilbo are upstaged by characters never mentioned in the very short novel; Thrandruil, Legolas, Tauriel, Galadriel, Azog, etc. The film's pacing is also off, with too many comical (although not really funny) moments thrown in too frequently, as well as nonsensical pauses in the battle scenes to give two or more characters some emotional release.
Speaking of the battle scenes, in retropspect it is easy to believe that is almost all there is to this film, with the violence as graphic as possible and still get a PG-13 rating. Yes, the book described the "Battle of Five Armies," but it only covered about five pages. We didn't need to see every conceivable orc and goblin and giant, mutated creature that the men, dwarves and elves had to face. Even if we did, why make it apparent that those creatures were so easily taken out by an arrow or slash of a sword? If you're going to show such creatures, make them more formidable. Don't even get me started on Bilbo actually taking part in the battle, since in the book he hid by using the One Ring.
There are some good performances in spite of the stilted dialogue. Lee Pace is appropriately holier-than-thou as the Elf King Thranduil and Richard Armitage is effective in portraying the gold-cursed Thorin, yet in both cases their transformations are too abrupt to be convincing. Both Evangeline Lilly and Aidan Turner are just okay, mainly because they are hampered with a plot device that makes little sense. I can accept that Tauriel has pity for Kili, and maybe even a bit of respect, but love? I'm just not seeing that as a possibility. Luke Evans, as Bard of Lake Town, does the best job overall, imbuing his character with the proper balance of strength, nobility and self-sacrifice. Hardly any of the other characters are given enough time to do much of anything, including Gandalf and Bilbo. They mainly just react to situations instead of initiating or controlling them.
Jackson judiciously excised characters and plot lines in the adaptations of the LotR trilogy, but he did the exact opposite with The Hobbit. If the pattern holds, in a few months we'll learn about an extended version being prepared for disc. Using the previous two films as a guideline we can assume the trilogy will clock in at around 8 1/2 hours, and that's not counting the interminably long credits. I could probably cut that down by at least half and still adequately service the novel. I wish I had a program that would let me copy the films and do my own edit, but I'm sure someone else does and will make the attempt. I may eventually buy the collection of the extended films, just as I did with LotR, but only because I'm a completist, but it's a safe bet I won't watch The Hobbit as frequently.
My reviews of the two previous Hobbit films, An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug.
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