Warning! After this line, there shall be spoilers!
There's not a lot of book-to-film adaptions I've seen where I favor the film over the book. I loved the Harry Potter films, but the book far exceeds its greatness; the same can be said for the Hunger Games. With 'The Hobbit' however, for the longest time I wasn't sure which I preferred; the book or the film. That's because rather than making a single film to base upon a single novel, the greedy folks over at New Line Cinema decided to split it into three. Now at first when I heard the news, I was kind of confused. I thought that splitting one book into three movies would be rather unnecessary; and I still do think so.
Sure films based on books these days like to split their final arc into two, but what the Hobbit did was way beyond the norm. I wouldn't have been so against it, if I wasn't so sure that this was just some greedy cash grab; a last resort for New Line and MGM as they desperately tried to hold on to one of their biggest franchises yet! I don't blame them, I mean just look at films today. Everything is either a sequel, a reboot or a retelling. Godzilla, Star Wars and Trek, Terminator, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the list goes on and on! It's hardly surprising that New Line Cinema would want to make sure they held on to something as big as The Hobbit, rather than let it go and move on to something new.
Still, by doing so, I always felt that they really drew the story out. Not that I'm so hesitant to say goodbye to Bilbo and his wonderful world, but I'd much rather say goodbye to him happy (albeit with tears of goodbye sorrow) than say goodbye disappointingly (with tears of shame -_-). Honestly this film should not exist, it should be the third act in a single two, maybe three hour film (it's not like Peter Jackson is shy of making super long movies). But, if this movie had to exist, if it simply had to be made into an entirely different two hour and twenty-four minute long film, I'm glad it did in the way that it did. First off, it begins exactly where the last one left off. Smaug has left the dwarven moutains and is on his way to burn the city! And he does, rather well actually. As to be expected, he is a dragon after all.
Smaug the terrible crashes upon the lonely town, decimating everything in his path! For about 15 minutes...Then he's surprisingly killed by a single black arrow by Bard the Bowman. Bard manages to construct a large bow using only a string, some conveniently placed debris and his child to strike the fearsome beast in an old wound; killing him.
As absolutely amazing as this scene was; the film really didn't need it. It was honestly a huge waste of time and only served to lengthen the running time of this film. It would have done much better as the true ending scene to the last film, Desolation of Smaug. I mean, everyone who had seen that film was angered by the cliffhanger it ended on, and were more than anxious to watch the next to see the epic battle between the city and the terrible dragon! But it was hardly an epic battle, just ten minutes of crispy villagers and five extra minutes to kill the dragon. Like I said, would have been better had they just stuck that scene to the end of the second film and allowed the third and final to focus on its true premise.
What was its true premise though? Well, as the title suggests, the "Battle of the Five Armies"! Though, I only really saw three...I could be wrong though. Let's see, there were the humans and the elves. but they were both on the same side. And the humans were more a group of distraught, homeless villagers than an army before the elves came along and asked them to join their cause. So would that count as one...or two? Then there's Thorin Oakenshield and his tiny group of dwarves plus a hobbit. But they did get reinforcements when Thorin's battle-hungry cousin comes along. But would that be considered an addition to his army...or a different army altogether that just ally's itself with Thorin's? Then of course there's the Orcs, but they sort of split up into two armies...I think.
Anyway, my confusion aside; this battle was epic! The movie took an awful long time getting to it though. That's another thing I felt could have been avoided had they simply made this one film. The movie felt very drawn out, situations went on for far longer than they should have. The biggest waste of time in this movie however, was this guy:
Alfrid Lickspittle. Portrayed by English actor Ryan Gage, Alfrid is supposed to be the comedy relief in betwixt the warring action. But sadly the only thing funny about this character is his incredibly hilarious name. Instead, he's just an annoying character who's every appearance is a just waste of running time. Although I admit, the scene with him in the corset is both awkward and chuckle-worthy. I don't have an official picture of that, so I've made my own. Enjoy.
Surprisingly, the film not only managed to feel drawn out, but it felt rushed as well. While it took a while for the film to get to its namesake, when it finally got there, there was hardly any planing for war at all. It went like this: Thorin goes mad with greed, the elves want their gems back, the humans want some money to rebuild, Gandalf comes, warns of the Orcs, the Orcs come. BOOM! War! No battle strategies, no days to truly prepare, nothing. I wished they had spent more time showing the warring parties preparing for war rather than spend a lot of the first half showing Thorin's gold affliction and Bilbo hiding the Arkenstone from him. Admittedly very badly. I mean, Bilbo has a habit of taking the things he's hiding out to gaze at in the most obvious places ever.
Speaking of Bilbo Baggins. I think that Martin Freeman is a great actor; my favorite roles of his being Watson in BBC's Sherlock and any film he does with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost! That being said, the man's a bit...emotionless. Well no, that's not a correct statement. He's got most of the emotions down, happiness, love, hunger etc. But it's sadness where he goes stale. For me, he just doesn't sell it when a sad and emotional scene takes place. For instance, when Thorin dies, he cries and everything; but it just doesn't seem authentic. I don't know why but his emotional acting just doesn't sell it for me.
But anyways, back to the battle. True it felt rushed getting there, but once it got there, it was spectacular! A huge battle featuring humans, elves, orcs and dwarves! It was a war that would make even the Battle at Hogwarts seem like a childish dispute! You...don't know how hard it is for me to say that. So yes, the movie wasn't very necessary. And yes, it was at times rushed and at other times drawn out. But The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies is an amazing film, and absolutely justifies its existence! This movie, in fact all of the movies don't do the book much justice. But by splitting into three arcs, and adding in a few extras in between start and finish, The Hobbit trilogy has gone from being a simple book-to-film adaption, to becoming a rightful inclusion in the Tolkien mythos. So when you see this film, don't think of it as the unneeded ending to a three part film based on a single novel; think of it as the epic conclusion to an amazing film series, it's own thing! I recommend this film to book readers and non-book readers alike!