Warning; contains spoilers and negative opinions; if you can't accept them then you don't have the maturity to read this; everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Share your thoughts in the comments and enjoy the read (it's a long one).
Three movies would seem more than enough for a three hundred page book, but in this latest instalment, they manage to leave out more than half the events in which this film was meant to depict; Balin’s visit? Rivendell? The funeral? It all seems rather odd, and it is the absence of these scenes that causes The Hobbit to fall flat.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies fails to capture little of the magic of Middle Earth. It starts with the destruction of Lake-town, takes us through an ‘epic’ battle all shot in the magical land of the green screen and finishes with a rushed, yet beautiful ending.
The beginning is done well. It looks brilliant; one of the few cases in which the use of CGI is actually excusable and what could go wrong? Well… Despite what seems to be as an excuse to make the scene more entertainting, Bard using Bain to shoot Smaug gave the film more emotional weight and the acting was spectacular. Such performances are hard to come by from a younger actor, but he is far better here then he was in Desolation of Smaug. Bard also improves; Evans present him as a really admirable character and unlike in Desolation of Smaug, the audience believes his love for his family, his honour for his people. Regardless, the death of the dragon is depicted beautifully. Smaug makes such an unforgettable impression that despite the sorrow and the grief and the chaos, it was sad to see him fall under the weight of his own arrogance.
Watching Thorin descend into greed and dragon sickness was infuriating and frustrating; exactly what it should be. It is heart wrenching seeing the company lose the Thorin they knew and loved, made even more impacting by the stellar acting of Richard Armitage. Whilst this did feel bloated by the end of it, it was depicted in such a fantastic way; I was finally treated to the realism that I wanted from these movies as Thorin tries to throw Bilbo over the rampart. It is tense, unfathomable and devastating.
Jackson’s depiction of the battle of the Battle of the Five Armies fell short of its Lord of the Rings counterparts. The battles are (I hate to say it) boring, deprived of suspense, inordinately padded, and predictable to the point of being disdainful of the audience. Whilst a comparison between what should be a lighthearted story and the epic scale of The Lord of the Rings is meaningless, Peter Jackson’s representation of the story of a Hobbit becoming a hero is little of that and more an attempt to make it an epic action adventure. The stakes just are not there, and thus, as an audience, we fail to believe that this battle really is as important as he makes it out to be. Everything seems to be trying to be far too serious. Everyone’s dialogue is an attempt at being menacing or powerful. There are, however, a few moments of beautiful dialogue and it is an improvement from the previous two movies, but it still fails to capture any of the poetic moments we see in The Lord of the Rings. It just felt a little silly with trolls throwing themselves into walls, elves moving perfectly in sync and Dain head butting orcs which adds nothing but witless breaks in what should be a moving battle. Despite this, Thranduil looking upon his fallen elves really impacted me, emphasised by beautiful music composed by Howard Shore. Speaking of Thranduil, his movement whilst fighting was elegant yet still believable.
Certainly it is clear now that The Hobbit has not benefited from being expanded. What was a warm and lovely story is all but lost in this ‘epic extravaganza.’ I would not call myself a book purist, and I would not mind additions if they kept to the tone of the book, and here it fails to. You may complain about Tauriel, who remains as the useless excuse for a love story, but in this latest installment, you will be treated to a lot worse. It is a classic case of more is less as Peter Jackson relishes in what he can do; he holds no reins, instead he goes full throttle and creates a movie that is (mostly) bloated and silly. An example of this would be the worms who offer no benefit to the story in any way possible or Alfrid who equally presents himself as a useless addition to appeal to the younger audience. He takes away from the warmth of The Hobbit and injects it with a silliness that does not belong in Middle Earth. He tries too hard to be funny and it takes away from the realism of what could be a convincing character. Where, though, is half the book? I have already talked about the rushed ending, but the absence of Beorn (except for a matter of seconds) and the lack of a role from the Eagles was disappointing and many who have not read the books will question who the fifth army is.
Jackson chose to depict the story behind the eventual rise of Sauron, the necromancer, and what appeared to be promising, fell short. It was nice to see and it was one of the more enjoyable and well directed scenes of the movie but the fight between the White Council and the Nazgul just did not work. The Nazgul were to begin with, very oddly designed. They moved like video game characters and it felt odd that they felt the need to deviate from their previous (and much better) design. The fight is too short and the wraith’s feel far to weightless. It was, however, nice to see Saruman return. They, however, depict Sauron in a very weird way; it is almost epileptic and it felt very strange and amateur. The scene, as I said before, is still very enjoyable and it was one of the highlights of the film to see such fantastic actors all together. It was too short though, leaving more time for what is a disappointing final (and long) battle.
Unexpected to say the least. The death of Fili certainly caught me off guard and although, unfortunately, there was little closure, it was shocking, overwhelming and oddly beautiful. Staring lost into his brother Kili’s eyes after being killed, does deviate from the book but it works well. Kili’s death also worked well in the film; it gave closure to Tauriel, and thus, also, to Thranduil. It was a shame that they did not die amidst the battle, defending their uncle. Personally, this would have provided a perfect ending to their friendship across the three films, yet it was nice to see a different take on this scene which is only briefly described in the books.
Thorin’s death scene was important in both book and movie; an end to a character that we have loved, pitied and hated. Although the fight scene between Azog and Thorin drew on, it was entertaining and I felt it provided a fitting end. Many will be broken as Thorin dies and Bilbo succumbs to comfortless grief and despair; I was glad that this sadness translated from book to movie. As Thorin watches the battlefield as the eagles fly over, falls and then says his final words, it becomes clear that we are saying goodbye to Middle Earth one last time (and in a very heart-wrenching way).
Previously in The Lord of the Rings, we were treated to a battle that look beautiful and paced brilliantly. They were dirty, gritty and real; there were little to no attempts to create something other-worldly or fantastical. This was because it was real; they used extra’s and hundreds of them. It is very clear in the Battle of the Five Armies, that they only used a handful of extra’s; evident as they all look and act in the same way; especially the elves. When multiplying orcs, dwarves, elves and men by the thousands, it takes away from the effect of using real actors as in Lord of the Rings. It was a shame that the key antagonists, Agog and Bolg, were CGI, not real like Lurtz or Gothmog. This has a negative impact as they are far less terrifying and do not inspire the actor’s and stunt men to act to their full extent as they are, in the end, fighting someone in a green suit.
I think it is only fair to talk and discuss the many additions to The Hobbit. I am not one for battle scenes so the amount of time put aside for them was disappointing and I was hoping for more character driven scenes. I just felt that the drawn out Legolas fight with Bolg could have been used to extend Bilbo’s screen time making him become less of a side-line character. I just felt that what should have been a minor character became just as apparently important as Bilbo or Thorin. Martin Freeman has established Bilbo as one of the best things about these films; a character that the audience feels genuine with and has a connection with; like us, he is a small person in a wide world. It took away from the emphasis of the quest to reclaim the lost treasure, the development from a Hobbit to a hero and the downfall and redemption of the once honourable and noble Thorin. Dain, although being in the original story, was not as I imagined him. I held no emotional connection to him and I felt that he was one again an excuse to appeal to the younger audiences.
The ending (although rushed) was very beautiful. I was sad that they left out the funeral scenes, Balin’s visit and Rivendell, but was thankful that what was done, was done tastefully. I will look forward to them in the extended editions but I felt that they should have been in the theatrical edition. The link to Lord of the Rings with Gandalf knocking on the door at Bag End made me love the film far more; it was so creative and it brings you straight into Fellowship of the Ring.
Regardless of my qualms, I respect not only the work of Peter Jackson, but the cast and crew who created these movies. It was bitter-sweet returning to Middle Earth, one last time, but I shall forever watch the films on repeat. Hannon le! Yet, I must judge this as a film and as an adaptation; I left disappointed but I still loved it. It is a movie that presents itself as an unfocused and meandering one; although finally reaching its end, the path to get there took its toll.