Movies: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro (screenplay) from the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien
New Line/MGM, 2014
PG-13; 144 minutes
1.5 stars (out of 5)


Well, it is what it says: mostly a movie about a big battle. There are four armies through a big chunk of it, which had me riffing on that line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: "That's four armies, I said five armies, can't you count?!" But then the fifth army shows up and the quota is met. Not that it makes any difference because the movie is one big yawn.

Smaug is dead before the title card comes up, and one is kind of glad because his dialogue is trite and ridiculous. He's also a lousy strategist when it comes to destroying things. He burns the town . . . Except not the bell tower. He leaves that standing for a while before deciding to give it a good thwack instead. And he stops to taunt the person who has arrows rather than just frying him on the spot. So by the time Bard does manage to bring him down, you more or less feel the stupid dragon deserves it.

The plot devolves for a while into petty politics. Lake-town is flattened, so Bard brings everyone to the ruins of Dale for shelter and applies to Thorin et al. for aid (and that money he promised them if they helped him). But Thorin has "dragon sickness" which is a really roundabout way of saying "greed." Might as well call it "Scrooge McDuckitis." Thorin refuses to honor his word and is additionally wound up about not being able to find the Arkenstone, which (if you didn't fall asleep in the last movie) you'll recall Bilbo has. He hasn't offered it to Thorin because Thorin is already acting crazy, and there's a fear that possession of the Arkenstone might only make him more power mad.

Elves show up wanting some diamonds they know are in the late Smaug's stash. Bilbo sneaks out and gives them the Arkenstone with which to barter. Thorin still won't negotiate, so the Elvish army and a rag-tag team of Lake-town men prepare to assail the mountain stronghold.

Oh, but then there's Gandalf. Remember how he was locked in that cage? Galadriel and Elrond and Sarumon come bust him out. It's probably the best scene, but in such a weak movie that's not saying much. Gandalf goes off to the mountain while the others go do . . . other stuff . . . We don't see them again.

So then we get Billy Connolly as leader of a dwarf army, and we get the orc army, and off we go. Some of the CGI work wasn't anything better than I'd expect to find in a video game, and there were lots of places where I felt like they'd forgotten to put blood on the swords, but whatever. It was the kind of movie where I wished I was wearing my watch so I could see how much more I had to endure. So little of it had anything to do with the novel; the film is largely an extension of the puffed up and padded story lines added to the previous movies. Bard and his family, which I suppose we're supposed to care about. And that slug of a person Alfred (this trilogy's version of Wormtongue), who is meant to be comic relief, I think? Tauriel and Kili and Legolas, with Legolas leaving at the end because he realizes he will never have Tauriel's heart, so his dad sends him north to look for "a young ranger" known as Strider. Sigh.

The desperation to attach these movies to the Rings trilogy is palpable and pathetic.

As for the titular Hobbit, we don't get all that much of him. Sure, he spends a lot of time worried about the fact he's got the Arkenstone (which is not so different from him worrying about the fact he has a Ring of Power), and Freeman makes pretty much the exact same faces as when John does like or understand something Sherlock has said or done. Then he gets knocked out for a big chunk of the battle, awakening just in time to see the eagles arrive to save the day. He gets to hear Thorin's last words, and then he gets to go home, where again that need to tie these films to the Rings arises in the final scene. Ugh.

In short, the whole film felt boring and pointless and extraneous. Every beat was easy to foretell; there were no surprises, no delights. There was, as advertised, a battle that (eventually) included five armies. That's the only reason I give it 1.5 stars.

ETA: I forgot the war bats. And the fabulous dialogue that goes something like:

"Those bats are bred for only one thing."



Then after all that, we hardly see them. But we do discover Elven arrows defy gravity.

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