Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Thorin (Richard Armitage), and the dwarfs recover the dwarf city of Erebor while the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) lays waste to Lake Town. After Bard (Luke Evans) defeats Smaug, everyone in Middle-earth turns their eyes toward Erebor and Thorin’s inherited treasure. Thorin must then face his greatest enemies—Thranduil (Lee Pace), Azog the Defiler and his orcs, and the greed for treasure that overcomes him.
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies is not a good movie. There, I said it. While it’s attractive on the outside with its top-notch CGI and sweeping shots of Middle-earth, there’s no conflict, the movie barely spends time with its titular character, and the pacing is gruesome. And it all comes back to the original issue I brought up over and over again in my reviews of An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug—this story didn’t need three movies.
As you may recall, The Desolation of Smaug ended on a cliffhanger. That, of course, being the moment when Smaug emerged from the Lonely Mountain to light the absolute hell out of Lake Town, where the kindly
Will Turner lookalike Bard and his children (They’re the ones who helped the dwarfs in the second film) live. So that’s where this movie opens. And Smaug gets shot by Bard within ten minutes. Like I said, no conflict. Why wasn’t this the end of Desolation of Smaug? Then we could’ve spent this movie building up Sauron’s return and having a kick-ass battle between the five armies.
Speaking of Sauron, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) was taken captive in Dol Goldur in Desolation of Smaug after facing off with the spirit of Sauron, so that’s where his story picks up. Just as he’s about to die, Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy), and Saruman (Christopher Lee) appear to fight Sauron and the ghosts of the nine kings of men (who become the ringwraiths). Galadriel has one of her elf power freakouts, like she did in The Fellowship of the Ring, and banishes Sauron from whence he came (*cough* Mordor). And the pacing/editing is so bad that all of the awesomeness of this fight scene was lost.
Now, the Battle of the Five Armies part. Everybody is converging on the Lonely Mountain, where Thorin is raging about being the king and not being able to find the Arkenstone, which Bilbo keeps hidden because Thorin has “dragon sickness” (Read: He’s a greedy dick).
Will Turner lookalike Bard and the people of Lake Town want the money Thorin promised them, so they team up with Mirkwood’s elf leader Thranduil and his army, who arrive because Thranduil wants his gems back. Thorin’s cousin Dain (Billy Connolly) shows up to help Thorin just as Azog the Defiler (a.k.a the Pale Orc) shows up to kill everyone. And there’s also an orc army marching from the north to help Azog. Oh, and Gandalf, Legolas, and Tauriel show up, too.
To be honest, the actual battle is a hot mess. It’s visually difficult to keep track of who’s where and who’s pissed off at whom, so it’s just CGI fighting masses everywhere. Oh, and the eagles show up to deus ex machina everything again (Seriously, Gandalf. Why didn’t you do this in LOTR to help Frodo?) On top of that, Bilbo is dragged along through it all, acting less as the story’s protagonist and more like an unwilling participant. Sure, he gets moments where he gets to play the voice of reason or the rescuer, but he keeps getting pushed to the sidelines in favor of the stupid Legolas/Kili/Tauriel triangle.
But, of course, the movie places all of its weight on Thorin finally escaping his greed to come out and battle Azog. But after three movies of cat-and-mouse games between Thorin and Azog and the choice to have Thorin start off this movie already greedy just to make a hard and fast turn back to good guy (Where’s the slow descent into madness and climatic triumph over inner demons? It’s like these writers have never written a story), it just doesn’t pack a punch. Even when Thorin dies and Bilbo mourns him, it feels meh.
Overall, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies is the final punchline of this three-film joke. It seems like each film in this prequel trilogy has gotten worse, which is obvious by the lack of focus in this movie. I blame the filmmakers because they clearly care more about using useless filler to make money than creating a single movie with exciting action scenes and solid character development (Sound familiar?). While I love Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins, and I’m always happy to see Ian McKellen, this movie falls somewhere between lackluster ending and jumping point for a bigger and better journey where the stakes are much higher (Hint: Lord of the Rings).
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies: C
For my radio review of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 24:17 mark).