The third Hobbit movie is really just a fantasy war movie, but it's still entertaining...
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the third and final entry of the Hobbit trilogy produced and directed by Peter Jackson as a prequel to his Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is a movie that is expected to wrap up events that began in the earlier two Hobbit movies (An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug) and to provide a transition into the first Lord of the Rings movie (The Fellowship of the Ring). While it does manage to do so, it doesn't have as much power and emotion as the third and final entry of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (The Return of the King). In fact, of all of Peter Jackson's six Middle-earth movies (meaning the three Hobbit and three LotR movies), The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is my least favorite and is, in fact, the only movie of those six that I am not awarding 10 stars out of 10.
Here's why. The other five movies have great storytelling, character presentation, incredible cinematography, stunning visual effects, exciting battle sequences, and lavish costume design to make the whole thing a true cinematic epic. This movie, on the other hand, minimizes the storytelling and character presentation but leaves in everything else. Another way to put it is this. I had gone into the theater expecting a dramatic narrative leading up to a climactic battle among five armies in about the last third of the movie. It turned out that the battle among the five armies (one Human, one Elf, two Dwarf, and one Orc) was the majority of the movie. The drama before the battle was relatively quick setup and preparation, establishing the reasons for each army's involvement. The drama after the battle was an even quicker resolution of the Hobbit and a brief transition into Lord of the Rings.
So instead of reviewing this movie as a Hobbit or Lord of the Rings movie, I'm going to look at it the same way I look at movies where physical combat and war are the primary focus (as an example, the adaptation of Frank Miller's 300 comes to mind). In other words, I'm not going to judge the movie based on the lack of deep plot and character development, but rather on everything else. After all, movies that lack one element may excel in another and still end up being a good movie. In the case of this Hobbit movie, I can say that, yes, it's still entertaining. The grand production value that you know from Peter Jackson's other Hobbit and LotR movies is still here, and the battle scenes are quite exciting. Also, the pacing is not terribly quick. Jackson still knows how to take his time in presenting certain scenes carefully so that we really take in what he wants us to take in.
Let's be fair. I didn't say that this movie has no plot and character development. I said that it doesn't have DEEP plot and character development. The movie does have good moments that remind us of Peter Jackson's skill as a storyteller. For example, the Dwarven leader Thorin (Richard Armitage) is free to control the Dwarven kingdom that had been destroyed by the dragon Smaug, but there is concern among his Dwarven followers as well as Bilbo the Hobbit (Martin Freeman) that Thorin has become power-hungry because of the massive wealth in gold he now possesses. Meanwhile, the Humans are seeking new shelter after Smaug burned down their town, and the Elves have their own reasons for wanting to deal with the Dwarves. As for the Orcs, they serve the forces of darkness and launch an attack to bring everyone else to their knees.
Basically, do not expect anything grand with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. At the same time, it isn't necessarily a bad movie, if you don't mind looking at it as a story about war and peace before the chaos of war breaks out. While it's not the best transition from the Hobbit to Lord of the Rings, at least it doesn't ignore the connections altogether. Yeah, it sounds like I'm being very generous here, but I'm simply giving my honest reaction as someone who tries to enjoy what the movie has, not complain about what the movie lacks. Anyhow, that is my opinion on the final Hobbit movie. It could have been on the same level as Peter Jackson's other Tolkien-based movies, but I enjoyed it for what it is: a fun fantasy war movie.
Anthony's Rating: 7/10
(Review originally published at http://www.anthonysfilmreview.com/Film/H/The_Hobbit_The_Battle_of_the_Five_Armies.htm)