Review of the Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Since I reviewed the first two parts of the Hobbit trilogy, I may as well do the third one.  I was impressed with the first installment and somewhat less so with the second, but I nonetheless was looking forward to getting to watch the movie because it contained the final battle.  I would say that the movie is entertaining and I delighted in seeing many parts of the book come to life.  Still, as I said in the first two reviews, the action scenes often became a bit over-indulgent and there were some additions and subtractions from the source material that either did not make sense or were just stupid.

The Good

-Martin Freeman remains a good Bilbo.  Overall, I’d say the casting was well-done for the major characters.

-Definitely cool seeing the elven and dwarven armies together.

-The fight between the White Council and the Ringwraiths was actually pretty impressive, even though such a fight is never spoken of in the book.  There is perhaps an implied fight with Sauron, then known as the Necromancer, in Tolkien’s material (not so much The Hobbit but in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings), so I guess there’s that.  Regardless, the CGI for this was executed pretty well.

-I’ve heard before that Tolkien wished to rewrite The Hobbit in order to make a clearer connection to The Lord of the Rings, though he was stopped by people who told him he’d ruin the original.  That was probably a wise decision in some ways, though it would have been nice to see how Tolkien would have drawn those connections himself.  In any case, I think the movies do a decent job of trying to connect those threads, such as making it more explicit that the mountain is a strategic location that Sauron would want.  Also, Legolas being in these movies makes perfect sense due to the fact that he’s easily old enough to be there and because the elves are his specific people, the Woodland kind, so I therefore have no problem with him being featured a bit.  I was actually hoping for a cameo of Gimli, maybe in the battle because his father is in the company, but apparently the original actor had severe allergic reactions to the makeup and had no desire to play a dwarf again (seriously, can’t help him out with different make-up and some CGI?).  As far as Aragorn, though he is indeed alive during these events and has an extended lifetime as a man with elvish blood, I understand it wouldn’t have made sense to see the same actor because he’d have to look like a 27 year old or something.

-Overall, the battle scenes are impressive and definitely have an epic feel, though understandably not on the scale as in the original trilogy.  They were set, after all, during an actual war and not just some random battle.

-It was great how they ended the movie by hearkening back to a scene in The Fellowship where Gandalf arrives and knocks on Bilbo’s door, but this time it is scene from Bilbo’s perspective.  Nice bit of nostalgia there.

-The music remains very good and fits the tone of the movies.

-The death of Smaug was portrayed differently in the books, but in some ways it made more sense in the movie, with a bigger arrow and all.

The Bad

-Peter Jackson seemed to love to ham it up both with the script and with the CGI to the point where it got a bit awkward.  Galadriel having some sort of mystic duel with Sauron was… just odd, and as cool as the fight was with the Naz’gul, that was decidedly weird.  Also, while I think the actor generally did a good job who played Thorin, the script evidently told him to lose all subtlety at times and greatly exaggerated his “dragon sickness” (his lust for gold), making his sudden turn all the more unconvincing.  The most convincing part was when he retained a bit of his old self when conversing with Bilbo over an acorn, which is a credit to the actor.  Otherwise, they overdid it.

-In addition, sometimes the fight scenes got a bit ridiculous.  I wish they just kept the setting of the book where the human, dwarf, and elf armies have the high ground on the mountain but are fighting the orcs on the slopes.  Having three different settings for the battle did not seem wise, and it seemed like they were trying too hard to have “boss fights,” separating the likes of Thorin, Bilbo, and Legolas from the main battles so they can all sorts of manly duels.  I kind of think they could have had those duels on the main battlefield and not leave the dwarves to contend with an army with vastly superior size.

-As I said in previous movies, I found it unnecessary to keep Azog alive, who is not an antagonist in the books.  This goes to my further criticism that I think this series should have just had two parts instead of three.  Because of their decision to have three parts and leave Smaug almost completely out of the first movie, they needed a bad guy… and so they just threw Azog back in there.

-I was very disappointed how little Beorn was in the movie.  In the book, he comes in and thrashes all the orcs, including Bolg, but the movie made him incidental.  Surprising, given how cool it would have been to see a huge bear whip orcs for several minutes.

The Ugly

-I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The dwarf-elf romance between Kili and Tauriel is by far the stupidest idea Peter Jackson has ever had and the one thing that I actually find to be insulting to the source material.  It is so un-Tolkien that I don’t even know where to start.  It’s so bad that even Jackson probably could see how awkward it would be so he conveniently made Kili the most good-looking dwarf; in fact, Kili just seems like a short human.  I don’t mind the creation of the character Tauriel, but if she was going to have any love interest at all, they should have just left her with Legolas.  Better yet, give her no love interest and just have a female elf shoot things alongside Legolas.  Trying to create some love triangle between the three of them when one is a dwarf is beyond stupid.  I don’t know if Jackson was trying to have this preachy theme of breaking down racial barriers or whatever, but regardless, it was dumb.  Leave that crap out.  So we get less Beorn so we can have room for this garbage?  Really?

Dwarves and elves are sometimes allies and sometimes enemies.  Most of the time, there is an uneasy rivalry.  And never, ever in Tolkien’s stories is there even close to one being romantically attracted to the other.  In fact, the actual human and elven unions are exceptionally rare, happening only three times, and those two races have much more similarity in appearance and culture (at least, the “higher” humans do).  I am still floored by the idiocy of this decision.

Conclusion

Overall, I enjoyed the trilogy and it had a lot of redeeming qualities.  I still think Jackson did a superb job bringing in the atmosphere of Tolkien’s world to life.  However, I agree somewhat with Viggo Mortensen (the man who played Aragorn) that Jackson got a bit too enamored with big special effects.  The Hobbit should have just been two movies, scaling down some of the more ridiculous fight scenes and removing stupid crap like the Tauriel-Kili disaster.  I think two 2.5 hour movies would have done more than enough justice to The Hobbit and would have forced Jackson to be more efficient with his time.  There is a reason why The Hobbit trilogy is far less beloved than the LOTR one by both critics and fans alike, and it’s because this new one sacrificed good story telling for more CGI, dumb story-lines, and perhaps even overly extended cameos.  I hope Jackson takes those lessons to heart if he ever goes ahead and creates movies from The Silmarillion.  I think a series of moves on that material would be very difficult, and he would need to be very sharp about what to add and what to leave out for it to work.  In other words, he will need to display more wisdom in those decisions than he did for The Hobbit.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s