Directed by Peter Jackson Starring: Richard Armitage, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Manu Bennet
At two hours and 24 minutes “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is the shortest of the six Tolkein movies Peter Jackson has directed and yet somehow it feels the longest of them all.
With all its battle scenes, swords and socery and dwarf/elf love triangles, Jackson and co.’s last trip to Middle Earth unsurprisingly feels as lifeless as the green screen backgrounds the film is shot against.
By this point, everyone knows the story by now; Bilbo Baggins is on a quest to help his dwarven pals retake their kingdom but Azog the white orc and his minions of darkness have other plans and thus a big battle ensues to decide who shall rule under the mountain.
I know the exact point in the film where I gave up all hope (SPOILERS AHEAD).
Toward the middle of the film, Daine, Thorin’s belligerent cousin, shows up with an army of dwarves to retake the mountain kingdom and defend it from the elven armies of King Thranduil who wants it for it’s white jewels…or something…
Anyways, when Daine is first revealed his character is showed off in the distance and all you can hear is his voice and as it turned out he was voiced by the great Bill Connolly.
At first I was like “Oh, awesome! Billy Connolly is in this movie! He’s playing a dwarf! That’s perfect, he’ll look great in that makeup for the battle.”
Camera zooms in close on Daine; completely CGI…
This illustrates one of the many big problems with this film series.
Peter Jackson is clearly suffering from what I like to call George Lucas syndrome.
Part of what made the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy so amazing was the high usage of practical effects.
The orcs were dude’s in makeup, the charge of the Rohirim in “The Return of the King” is 200 plus horsemen and women charging on que, and, hell, even the castles are just large scale models with CGI rendering to make them look bigger than they actually are.
(You may think he’s disgusting but I think he’s beautiful)
I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again; a great practical effect will ALWAYS trump the best CGI effect.
Peter Jackson has saturated these Hobbit films in endless amounts of green screen and CGI. I can imagine the frustration some of these actors must have had shooting these fight scenes, probably stabbing at the air that would represent an orc in the post production of the movie.
(This is how Orlando Bloom always envisioned his acting career would go…)
A great example of a missed opportunity with this is Azog played by New Zealand actor Manu Bennet.
(This is Bennet’s most casual look)
Look at that picture of him. He already has the physique of a large orc and with just a little bit of latex and white body paint I guarantee this guy would look better than anything some asshole could make on his computer at Warner Bros studios.
(“This is me ruining your movie…”)
The final two hours of this film is just a non-stop cgi action sequence and the result is one long video game cinematic but even the clips in Warcraft have more soul and story going on in it than these scenes.
And that’s the real problem with this movie, beyond the fact that the CGI renders the film’s scenes a lifeless husk, it’s the writing that gives the film no pulse and thus no heart.
What made the Lord of the Rings films classics weren’t because they had these amazing battle sequences (though it’s definitely part of it), it’s that there were multiple literary themes that ran through the story that taught us lessons about life that had real staying power with us after the movie.
For instance “The Two Towers” is probably my favorite of the six movies and though the Battle of Helms Deep is a big reason why I loved it (and I credit that sequence largely to why I became such a huge fan of fantasy in my teenage years), the scene I always remember most isn’t the battle sequences from the movie but rather Sam’s speech to Frodo at the end of the movie.
(“You see Mr. Frodo, special effects can never replace a good story about gay Hobbits trying to toss a small piece of jewelry into a volcano.”)
Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee is perhaps one of the most underrated actors of the film series and during this moment in the film he delivers this harrowing speech about perseverance and not giving up.
“There’s some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for,” is a line that gives me goose bumps every time and it’s the scene that has stuck with me the most since watching that movie.
What sticks out in “The Battle of the Five Armies?”
A whole lot of nothing.
Another frustrating thing about this movie is the under usage of Bilbo Baggins, the character the film is supposedly about.
Bilbo does nothing again for the second straight movie, despite being the title of the movie and the most interesting character in the story.
Martin Freeman’s talent is once again wasted and he’s left to kind of just to watch the events of the story play out rather than be in them.
Basically he’s less the guy at the party getting drunk, having a wild threesome with two beautiful women, while stealing a cop car and more the designated driver who stands in the corner drinking Coke Zero while watching everyone else have fun.
(“Yeeeeaaah…when do you guys want to leave and go back to the Shire?”)
There’s just no emotion to this story. These Tolkein tale’s heart and themes have been replaced by a satanic orgy of video game action and soulless CGI.
To his credit though, Peter Jackson is still the best director when it comes to portraying fantasy worlds and that counts for something…I guess
Fans of the endlessly repetitive lightsaber duels in the Star Wars prequels I’m sure will enjoy this and while this movie left me feeling pretty empty it’s still not the worst film I’ve seen this year…
So if all you care about is watching cartoon characters rendered on a computer screen battle it out for two hours, I’m sure you’ll probably enjoy this.
Everyone else need not apply…
Verdict: 2 out of 5