Seems forever ago since the epic journey of Middle Earth appeared on the silver screen. Young Frodo joined a merry band of misfits, warriors, and hunks to deliver the small trinket of a ring to the fiery forges of Mount Doom. Of course it wasn’t enough to end on the high note of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, no he had to go and make a new trilogy of the Hobbit. I’ll admit there are ups and downs of this series, especially with the slowness some of these films have had, but the battle of five armies was a title that promised action and excitement that I so longed for. Does this movie live up to the praise the trailers call for, or does Jackson drop the ball on what is supposed to be his final installment. Read on to find out.
The Battle of Five Armies opens up with a fiery blaze, as fifteen minute opening of Smaug’s descent on the city fills you in high definition “glory” that could have easily been integrated in the last moments of Hobbit 2. Jackson’s hasty integration of the opening scenes was a let down for me, the epic moments diluted by some sloppy, albeit graphically impressive, sequences that left me wanting more. From there the action lessens, and we are bombarded with a massive medieval soap opera, that does a nice job of portraying the descent into madness. Yes it provides a nice build up and character developing opportunities, but the editing could have left a few dragged out dialogues for the director’s cut. Eventually the epic action promised is given to you in the form of the final battle, which at first is a slew of computer generated, grey blobs that seem to only know how to run into each other. Occasionally the mayhem gains some clarity in a few of the soldiers getting some epic moves, or some poor animal steeds meeting a rather graphic end (hello animal rights enthusiasts). Unfortunately the battles lack any real teamwork and personalization that the others have, and misses that detailed touch I love so. However, when the war hits its peak, you get the personalized action that I wanted, filled with well choreographed swordplay between dressed up actors and CGI monsters. All of this ends with a decent ending, that ties up some loose ends, and transitions to the opening of the first series.
If you haven’t guessed yet, my biggest problem with this movie is the editing and choices Jackson made with this tale. Some of the moments were just extra baggage, details that avid fans can go reread or see in a director’s cut later on. What was even worse was the placement of some of these scenes, especially Thorin’s descent into madness in the middle of battle. I came to see fighting dang it, not the internal thoughts of a man suffering from “dragon’s sickness” with repeated audio clips. Yet Jackson decided to stuff the movie with overdramatic moments, some of which hit home and others a little ridiculous. Oh well, I do have to admit that despite the length and predictability, Jackson does nice work with his characters, though many of the dwarves in this movie are put on the far backburner and hardly catch any screen time.
Perhaps I wouldn’t be too upset if the action was actually up to the level Lord of the Rings had, but sadly this movie failed to reach the same threshold. As mentioned earlier, Jackson chose the 3-D high quality film, but skimped on some of the visuals, choosing to put swarms of CGI bodies entangled. Despite their being five armies, the teamwork amidst the races was at an all time low, and strategic moves were essentially absent, replaced with mindless slashing. Sure some of the commanders had some impressive displays of swordmanship, but it paled in comparison to some of the proceeding stunts. Don’t get me wrong, there were some awesome fights near the end, but these epic battles began to evolve into a prolonged mess of ridiculous dives, mindless flaying, and rather lackluster finishes.
Another weakness is how convenient/inconsistent some of the qualities were. My point starts with the joke “How many slashes does it take to kill an orc?” The answer, it depends on the orc. Full clad monsters fell with one or two slashes, but others took quite a punishment and still were able to bite back. However, giant bats and trolls could fall with a few arrows or a hit to the head, that is definitely a stretch of fantasy. In addition, how the tide of the war changed was a bit cheesy as well, especially the lack of any strategy or surprise with the introduction of the fighters. For this reviewer, I also found some of the combatants pointless in the fight, many making an appearance for a few seconds before being lost to another sequence of Thorin, Bilbo, or Bard. Of course one other thing is the predictable foreshadowing of the fights, namely in who will be killed.
I’ve had a lot of complaining in this review, but let me review a few of the positive qualities of this film. Jackson has done a great job with the casting, the acting in particular well executed by the entire staff. Richard Armitage does the part of the mad dwarf thorin quite well, capturing both insanity and honor in a very diverse manor. Martin Freeman once again plays Bilbo incredibly, bringing a lot of the comedic relief in a rather dark film, yet also getting rather emotional. Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly were beautiful as always, but unfortunately their characters took more of a backseat to the madness at hand, with not only their skills, but characters downgraded in this installment. Acting aside, the high definition footage is clean and crisp, the musical score beautifully set to the movie, though some of the tracks are starting to annoy me, and the comedy in the film is surprisingly good. The emotions in this movie are strong, though again some parts cheesy, and some parts rather moving.
Overall Hobbit 3 is a well put together movie, with a little bit of everything for the avid movie goer. With things like high quality video, a great score, and character development with action in between, one will get a nice conclusion to the adventure. The main problem is the editing, in that Jackson still needs to work on cutting out extra fat, straying from swarming armies, and working on the timing of his scenes. Is this movie worth the hype? It’s good, but not worth all the hype Hollywood is pumping into it. Still worth a trip to the theater though, especially for those who love the series.
My scores for this film are:
Movie Overall: 7.5-8.0