The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Near the end of the movie, as Ian McKellan and Martin Freeman's perspective-aiding body doubles rode back to the Shire on their ponies in wide shots, I'm not going to lie, I got slightly sad that this was going to be the last time I ever see a Middle-Earth movie in theaters. Made me feel probably more genuine emotion anything else in this movie did. Because let's be clear, this was definitely my least favorite Lord of the Rings movie P-Jax has ever made.
The film starts out right away with Smaug destroying the crap out of Lake Town, just as he promised as we were left hanging at the end of the last film. It was a visually interesting, very climactic opening fifteen minutes to a movie that, now that I've seen it, should have been fifteen minutes tacked on to the end of the second movie. It's almost over so (relatively) quickly that it made me kind of angry that it was left in a cliffhanger state. Oh well. Whatcha gonna do? Moving on.
The main plot of this chapter is that now that Smaug is gone (spoiler alert?), everyone wants a piece of the mountain. Some want gold, some want shelter, some want it for strategic reasons. So the entire movie is basically an assembling of the titular "five armies", even though I only counted four (orc, elf, dwarf, human), and then they have a big ass, over 40-minute long battle.
Now, I loved all of the one-on-one fights in the film. I thought they were great, and detailed, and intense. But the big battle itself... EHHHHHH. There's some really great visual moments, like the dwarf riding the battle pig, the elf riding the battle moose, the other dwarves riding the battle rams (listen, this movie ain't short on awesome things that people ride on); but the overall focus of the main battle was more of a giant sloppy mess of clusters of groups smashing into each other. It was like watching someone play a strategy computer game than anything that compared to the tension of Helm's Deep or the Battle of Gondor.
I mean, do you remember the first time you saw Return of the King and it's the huge Battle of Gondor, and the tides start to turn when Rohan shows up and they start stomping the orcs, and you're feeling all great and start to think positively...? ...But then, it does that slow reveal of those giant freaking war elephants stampeding towards the battle, and your heart sinks down into your gut, then the camera gets closer to the action and the elephants start swinging their tusks and killing like hundreds of people in seconds, and your jaw drops and you say "Hooooooly s***..." Do you remember that feeling? Yeah? Well, that feeling doesn't ever happen in this movie.
And the lack of resolution! For a movie named after the battle you're supposed to care about, they don't even show that battle actually ending! And that's not all. Peter Jackson does an ok job trying to tie together the characters we know about (Legolas, Bilbo, Gandalf, Saruman) with the events that eventually take place in Fellowship of the Ring, but the Hobbit exclusive characters like Unibrow Bad Teeth Guy and Evangeline Lilly Elf are just sort of there and then not there. I guess they just go home or something? That's the trouble with making up characters (like Tauriel) for a prequel; you kind of have to explain why they aren't in the original trilogy later on. And what happened with the Arkenstone? That kind of stopped being an issue once the battle started.
I saw it in IMAX 3D under the rationalization that I would never see another Lord of the Rings movie in theaters ever again, so I might as well make it as big and loud as possible. There were some decent 3D elements, like snow falling and a pretty trippy Sauron eye sequence, but like most 3D movies, it didn't really stay very 3D looking the whole time. The Jurassic World trailer before the movie had great 3D depth, though! And on a side note, even though I watched it 20 times already, the Star Wars: Force Awakens trailer felt almost like new when I saw it on a huge IMAX screen, and not the tiny YouTube player that I rarely ever go full screen for some reason. On another side note, the trailers before LOTR 6 were Star Wars 7, Jurassic Park 4, Furious 7, Terminator 5, and another cool looking Wachowski siblings film. It's a good time to be a 30-year-old dude, I guess.
But ya know, despite what I've said, The Battle of the Five Armies still has all the fine details and interesting moments and top-of-the-line visuals that make this stray away from anything I'd call a bad movie. I know I've been pretty negative this whole review, but overall I liked it. I'd probably like anything Tolkien, though. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has provided me enough satisfaction that I'll nerd out any chance I can. And to be fair, I enjoyed the first two Hobbit movies. The first was just a well crafted adventure film (with a great Gollum sequence), and the second had Smaug being undeniably entertaining. This third one, though, was just kind of a muddled compilation of all the elements we've already seen before.
It totally felt like Peter Jackson was just trying to get it over with and stop making these Middle-Earth movies already. I was always under the impression that he was kind of forced into committing years of his life into making more films in this franchise, instead of it being a passion project like the original trilogy. I sort of feel bad for him. But now it's over, and he can go on to making other things and not look back. I just hope he goes more towards Heavenly Creatures than Lovely Bones. Take a couple of years, Peter, and think about things. Do something personal. Do something intimate. You don't ever have to film a giant battle ever again, if you don't feel like it. But thanks anyway for the memories, they were awesome, even if it "ended" on the lowest note. I'll just remember Return of the King as being the actual ending(s) to the saga.
7.5 out of 10
I agree with everything you said here Scott - well done. I saw it in a 2D theater - assume it was a 65mm digital projection. Though this was downtown Hartford so maybe it was only 63 mm :)
Anyway, it was a really good picture, and you could tell what shots were supposed to be 3D, like when the tip of a sword is like right up to the lens and in focus even though the guy holding it is also in focus.
After the movie I was talking with my friends about how much of this stuff in movie 3 was actually in the Hobbit book. We concluded that aside from the dragon and the presence of Bilbo Baggins, very little was in the book.
I was less bored in Part 3 than I was in Part 2, so that's an improvement. I had the same reaction to the Two Towers vs Return of the King. In fact Hobbit 3 and Return of the King are basically the same movie - start where Part 2 leaves off, the new King emerges, the big battle kills lots of Orcs and other creatures, Orlando Bloom defies gravity a lot and Gandalf kills a bunch of people with a wooden staff.
It was cool to see Christopher Lee's digital double doing some fighting and he had a good one liner along the lines of "did you miss me? I'm, back!".
Don't think for a minute that the 70 year time span between the Hobbit and Fellowship has gone unnoticed by New Line / MGM / Wingnut Films. That is ripe for an animated tv series akin to Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels. It could be called "Hobbits" or "The Shire" in which we see other Hobbits go on mini adventures, with the occasional cameo by Bilbo, Frodo, Legolas, Galdalf or Aragon.
JJ Abrams should read the Hobbit reviews carefully as he edits Star Wars 7. He needs to find the right balance of homage, action, over the top action, drama, humor and wacky creatures. It is a delicate balance for sure.
I think Hollywood needs to take like a 30 year step back from Lord of the Rings, and wait until technology has become so powerful that some promising new 2045 filmmaker can actually do something different with the material. Maybe it can be the first epic motion picture franchise to have a 100% android cast?!
Took the family to see this over the holiday break, in real-d 3d.
I think the waiting for this to come out took away some of the enjoyment, because, really, Smaug's death NEEDED to be the end of the last film, and damn the running time. LOTR/HOBBIT audiences don't care that the time is long; it's a given. It's not the running time, but the waiting time between releases that's a drag.
That said, there was plenty to like. The two main orc bad guys are amazingly well-created, rendered, and acted, and yes, you can tell good orc acting from bad orc acting. The Big Bad duel on the ice is wonderfully exciting. Andy Sirkis was the second unit director on this movie, and I wonder how much of a mocap contribution he made? The war creatures are amazing, Billy Connolley is a hoot as the Dwarve's more Scottish Cousin. Hugo Weaving gets all of about 7 minutes screen time int the whole movie. Lee Pace is elvishly resplendent, and there's all kinds of tension when he's in the scenes with Legolas.
Without the huge spectacular of Smaug's death to kick it off, this sequel would have had a hard time getting up a momentum, because really it's a refugee tale spliced to Treasure Of the Sierra Madre with the Dwarf king as Dobbs, plus a re-hash of the battle of Helm's Deep. And again with the Freaking Giant Eagles, what a Deus Ex Machina plot convenience.
Others were right to say the battle isn't really shown concluding after the eagles arrive: apparently, air support makes all ground action moot. Maybe the thing to do was shift emphasis to Baggins' return to the Shire and his re-integration into Shire life, which would have had potential to explore PTSD, a temptation to keep using the Ring of Power, fear and distrust of his neighbors, and their worries that all the evil things Baggins fought will come looking for him in their quiet, pacifist world.
Very little of that would need huge battle effects, or fight scenes, but you know, I think that story line would have been more in tune with our times as an allegory to vets come home from the Middle East/Middle Earth, and trying to find their way back to normalcy. When you see the momentary evil flare-up of Old Bilbo giving the ring to Frodo in LOTR, there is a LOT of story in between those few seconds. A LOT.
Worth seeing? yes, but only just, for those folks who are completists. I can imagine plenty of folks binge-watching the BluRay's at home, and quitting this one after Smaug falls.
After Smaug's death the movie felt over, which made it feel strange after that. However, I can't wait for the sequel!
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