Battle of Five Armies
by ZhdaNN on deviantART
⇈This is not mine. Click on the picture to go to the source.⇈
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you might be aware that my friends & I have seen each of The Hobbit movies as they’ve been released over the last few years. So it’s no surprise that we went and saw the last of the trilogy a few weeks ago, on release day. And although it was a welcome conclusion to the series, for me, it was the weakest of the set.
As always, I’ll try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but there may be some things I say that assume that you’ve seen the previous movies, and comment on some of the more obvious plot-points.
Before I get into it, I should remind you of my disclaimer from last time: I’m pretty much a LOTR noob. I actually don’t really know anything about it at all, except what I’ve been able to gleam off pop culture references and the previous Hobbit movies. I haven’t read any of the books, seen any of the movies (except the first & second Hobbit) or played any games etc. Also, we didn’t see this in 3D or HFR (higher frame rate), just like the last two times.
The film opens on a climax, because that’s where the last one ended, and this one continues on from it directly. Initially I couldn’t even remember what exactly was going on, but I picked it up pretty quickly because the action darts between all the main characters and re-establishing their current situations effortlessly. However, within 15 minutes, the action is all pretty much over, and we’ve reached a plateau that I think would’ve been a much more fitting end to the second movie.
And in some way, that where I think the whole series should have ended. Everything that comes after that feels like a big, long ad for The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, (which I must admit, I’m still yet to watch) or Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. I say this because it mainly consists of foreshadowing, and orc-killing. Legolas has a side-plot concerned with some great evil, which is about to sweep in from the hills, but it actually never turns up. I found out later from a friend that this is because it’s basically the main storyline of the LOTR trilogy. There are countless other foreshadowing tidbits, many of which I surely missed, seeing as I’m not familiar with what they’re referring to. For someone familiar with LOTR, this stuff would’ve served to make The Hobbit a more complete experience, placing it appropriately within the LOTR universe. However, for someone unaware like me, it was just a big long tease.
The “war” that the rest of the movie is comprised of, all feels a bit detached from even this version of reality. For one thing, it seems to erupt and die out in the matter of an afternoon. The fact that one of the leaders is played (or maybe more accurately just voiced) by Billy Connolly also doesn’t help the immersion.
The atmosphere in this film, compared to the others, was much more dark and grey feeling. Everything was focused on fighting and destruction. The beautiful New Zealand vistas took a back seat to close-ups of ugly CGI orcs, bearing their jagged teeth, and dwarfs riding rams through vicious crowds. There are still a few oddly placed ultra-wide shots, just to remind you that all this desolation is occurring within such a picturesque landscape. But they feel more out-of-place than ever.
Somewhere along the lines, as I was watching the movie, it suddenly occurred to me that this film probably doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test. You know, that rule of thumb for judging a movie’s representation of women. There is a scene where some townswomen discuss going to fight alongside the men, but that’s not really a conversation and it’s still technically about a man/men so it’s borderline at best. I think there are some female elf soldiers, but they all just cannon-fodder. And all the other armies seem to be male-only. Despite having a strong, female warrior in Tauriel, there’s really no others like her. Not only that, when push comes to shove, she can’t even save herself. She’s rescued her male-counterparts numerous times throughout the previous movies, and yet, in this one she end up a damsel, not once but twice! That really disappointed me.
With all that said, most, if not all, of my criticism can be traced back to the original source text that these movies are based on: The Hobbit. The book (which I have not read) doesn’t just suddenly end where I suggested, so neither can the movie. There aren’t any extra women characters in the book, so neither are there in this movie. All the foreshadowing is probably in the book as well, so of course it’s going to be present in the movie. Otherwise, everyone would be complaining that it was too different from the book. This doesn’t change the fact, however, that I think the Hobbit story could have been told in just two movies. They each may have been a tad longer, but I think it would’ve been better that way.
If you went into this film having not seen the second movie, I think the whole thing would’ve been practically incomprehensible from the very first moment. Unlike some series, these movies (apart from maybe the first one) do not stand well on their own. As a series, I didn’t mind it, but I felt that overall it was longer, and more drawn out than it needed to be, especially the latter half. In the first half, I was really enjoying the drag-out. A lot of the things that I’ve heard people suggest should have been left out are actually the bits l liked the most, so I’m not sure how they could’ve trimmed the fat. All I know is that I doubt that I’ll ever watch the whole thing again because I don’t think it’s a good investment of 7 hours. 4 hours, maybe. 2 hours, sure! But 6-8 hrs is too much.
If you’re this far in, just finish it off. You got to see this. If you haven’t seen any of the Hobbit movies, they’re worth a watch as a whole, in order. But don’t be surprised if you don’t want to see them twice.
Movie RATING: 6/10
Series RATING: 7/10
Have you seen any or all of The Hobbit movies? Have your read the book? What did you think? Did it live up to your expectations? Have I said anything you disagree with? Tell me & everyone else who passes through here what you think in the comments below, or on Facebook.
To Infinity and Beyond,
P.S. You may have noticed my opening word for this year has changed, as it does every year, and this year I’m going with “If”.
I have read the original Lord of The Rings books and The Hobbit but no expanded universe material. I’ve also seen the LOTR trilogy and the first two films of The Hobbit series.
Your two-hours judgment is spot-on: The Hobbit Series (at least its two films) has expanded the book’s meager story into colossal proportions. The only characters that are present in both The Hobbit (the book) and LOTR books are Gandalf, Glóin the dwarf, Bilbo and Gollum. The book has no Orcs; they are actually Goblins. The book has no women either, and no human men too. So, I believe you’ve guessed what I am going to say: In the book, there is no action where the first two films have shown plenty; hence the battle of the five armies is the climax and the real deal.
Also, these films are the only films in which a female elf falls in love, or an elf heals a dwarf! In all previous works, these are aberrations beyond impossibility.
But I have good news: The original trilogy has remained largely faithful to the books and is a success.
Thank you very much, John, for that concise explanation of what’s right and wrong with The Hobbit movies, from the perspective of someone actually familiar with the original works. I really appreciate the context.