By: Will McMahon
I shall not waste too much space on introducing this review. Unlike this movie, I am going to try and be on-point, concise.
I love Peter Jackson’s movies – those on Middle Earth and otherwise. Though I only read a young adult version of The Hobbit as a kid, I never read the series of Tolkien's books as an adult. My knowledge of the world and adventures in this world are limited to the 5 preceding movies. Each of which I found and continue to find very entertaining.
TBOTFA (which makes me laugh to type) was… epic. Though I understand the making of a new trilogy both financially and creatively for Jackson & crew, this ‘final’ installment felt to me, the less-initiated, stretched thin. So yes, the movie was something to behold, yes the score was epic and the fighting engaging. I’m just not sure the creators planned the number of times the audience laughed at certain lines and scenes. Yes, some were meant in an endearing, lighthearted manner. Some of it was just plain silly.
Should I pay to see it?
No. Ehhh…. no.
If you are a die-hard fan, I suppose it is worth the event of it all, however even the most endeared and loyal fan may very well find themselves laughing at supposedly dramatic speeches And they did. The laughter I was part of took place at a semi-advanced screening, theoretically full of viewers excited fans in one way or another. Yet they could not take everything seriously).
The movie practically screams at you to get hyped for how BIG & CRAZY EVERYTHING IS GOING TO GET, but then crumples with the narrowness of actual plot. I had to think hard on what exactly left me shaking my head as I left the theater and still find explanation difficult. I love the Battle of Helms Deep in Two Towers. That action sequence remains some of the most entertaining fighting I have ever seen. The battle is long, yes, but serves as a crucial point, built up with drama, tension and character with an actual movie surrounding the bloodshed.
Five Armies’ battle seems cool (or battles, I guess) but in fact is the only substance of the movie. 25 minutes of setup then a 2 hour battle sounds good on paper but can be sort of tedious and fell flat for me. Someone who had never seen the previous Hobbit installments would have 2 very important questions: 1) who are these people and why shouldI care about their grand statements of bravery or love or dementia or something? and 2) Doesn’t the movie’s namesake have sort of a minor role?
Martin Freeman carries his weight, but again, this film focuses on fighting. His scenes serve as the strong points of the story, as Freeman was well (if not perfectly) as the clever, cheeky, sincere Bilbo. When he delivers his lines, you laugh at the appropriate times and buy the feeling behind his words and actions. As for everyone else? If the actors playing the Orcs are giving equally strong performances or being fed less (and therefore better because it has fewer chances to be so absurd) dialogue your movie is uneven to say the least.
Could I watch it with a date?
Sure, if they are a big fan, be prepared? Sneak in otherwise? I am felling very, very down on this movie overall. I expected more, I suppose, based on Jackson’s track record. I found myself not enjoying this installment in its bloated-yet-limited scale. Sure, there are some striking visuals. There are some great shots of destruction and war. Just not enough delivery on the promise such sights imply.
Whereas the original trilogy probably benefitted from the likes of Viggo Mortensen delivering the brave, motivational talks in his growling and direct way, Five Armies can claim far more attempts at such talk, with absolutely abysmal results. I can think of 3 distinct points in the movie where a line was meant to be grave or ominous but left most of the theater laughing – loudly. If you’re going to make a 2-hour battle movie with wizards and goblins and monsters and elves, one might want to weigh the action/dialogue balance. The other 5 movies of Middle Earth did a far more masterful job with this dynamic.
And yet, even the action scenes left some of us in stitches. Note: this comes from a viewer who adores the over-the-top. I love the escalating absurdity of John McClain in the Die Hard franchise. I’ve seen every Mission: Impossible movie in theaters and have an embarrassing love for anything – anything – Jason Statham does. James Bond and Jason Bourne can do no wrong in my book. So please, understand my background and mindset as I discuss Legolas’ badassery in TBOTFA. Heh.
Let me be more clear. Orlando Bloom must have an absolutely brilliant, brilliant agent because it becomes quite clear he has some sort of clause in a contract somewhere guaranteeing him a certain number of scenes with him bravely, blondely acting comically superheroic. He runs up a collapsing structure, defying gravity, all understood physics, and common sense. He orchestrates Rube Goldberg-esque tower collapse to get him from point A to point B. But at least they acknowledge one insane aspect of his fighting – Legolas finally runs out of arrows. I am pretty sure of the half-dozen times I laughed at Legolas, his reaching for an empty quiver was the only moment meant to elicit a chuckle. The sheer bat-s***-ness of what Legolas does and says alone makes this movie hard to take seriously on the whole.
Could I watch it with my mother?
Again, sure? Don’t pay? Maybe wait for this absurd conclusion to come out on HBO/On Demand/What-Have-You?
Legolas was not even the most guilty of his kinsman. Poor Lee Pace. He was forced to deliver a few of the goofiest, most infuriating lines I have ever experienced in a theater. And I saw both Timeline and The Core in theaters.
Overall, this movie was a mess for me. I am the demographic for 2 hour battle movies with magic. Too much fell flat, leaving the dialogue and epic sweeping score to punctuate the hilarity rather than the tension. Where The Desolation of Smaug felt in-line with the original trilogy and had both great action and earned emotional & dramatic tension, Five Armies was comically shallow. So maybe you will find it worth your time to go see what I mean.
I shall have to see what I think upon some re-watching in the (distant) future, but this is the first review I have done where I will flat out tell you – pass on this movie. If you want to shell out the money and check this out in theaters, in 3D even, be my guest. Somehow Five Armies manages to cross my ‘too-stupid-to-be-fun’ threshold.
And that is truly saying something.
all images via Warner Bros. UK