The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Hopefully, Peter Jackson can finally cease his wanderings through Middle Earth. I’m sure he would never say so, but I imagine he’s glad this project is done and hopes that he’s not forced to do another. He hasn’t seemed happy in Tolkien’s world for quite some time. It may be, however, that he’s trapped. The studio may demand that he mine the appendices to LOTR, which they have the rights to, for any last scraps of narrative, or commit that blackest of blasphemies, write an original story set in Tolkien’s world. Jackson’s non-Middle Earth films have had some success but they haven’t made anything like the money these ones have.
When reviewing the first Hobbit film, I mentioned that Jackson seems bored. I think that is even more evident in this last one. The film is full of lazy choices and tired plot devices. Really, how could Jackson look at the antlers on the elk that Thranduil rides into battle and not think they would get laughs that distracted from the action. And of course we still have those stupid rabbits pulling Radagast’s sled. The orc army is able to move unseen because they follow these giant tunneling worms underground to Erebor. That’s too convenient and it stretches the boundaries of Tolkien’s creation to the breaking point. They have over nine hours to translate a 287 page children’s novel and still take cheap shortcuts like that? That more than anything convinces me that Jackson has lost interest.
OK let’s focus on some positives. The performances are good, although I hate to report that Martin Freeman’s now familiar mannerisms are out of control here. But Ian McKellen’s Gandalf is fine and Richard Armitage takes Thorin from treasure obsessed madman back to kingly leader in convincing fashion. Balin, played by Ken Stott, stands out among the dwarves as a kindly guide for Bilbo as he navigates the dangerous terrain of Thorin’s sensibilities. Kili’s mooney-eyed love affair with Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly, is ultimately pointless and distracting but Aidan Turner imbues the dwarf with likeability and earnestness.
Obviously, it’s a pretty film. The design concepts of artists Alan Lee and John Howe continue to inform the sets, makeup and costumes. This alone almost makes it worth watching, although the CGI effects look cheesy in places. The pace never flags even though the film is an epic two hours and twenty four minutes long.
And yet the film is strangely flat. I simply didn’t care about the characters. The main problem with this whole project was the disastrous, wrong-headed decision to pad the story out to three films. This causes catastrophic failure on several levels. The sub-plots that Jackson and his screenwriting team have chosen to pad this thing with are universally pointless and pretentious. The foreshadowing of LOTR is heavy handed.
The Hobbit stands apart from The Lord of the Rings. It was written decades earlier, and Tolkien’s ideas about his world became more detailed as time went on, plus he had no idea that he was going to write a sequel. The ring was just a magic ring to begin with. And this cannot be stressed enough: It is a children’s novel. There is a timeless innocence to it that Jackson chose to disregard in his attempt to recreate the success he had with LOTR. He never realized or accepted that a different tone was called for.
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy is a near perfect masterpiece that nobody should ever fool with or attempt to remake. But I hope someday someone tries to make a Hobbit movie that is closer to the book.


1 Response to “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”

  1. 1 Thomas Van Horne December 20, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    I can’t think of a more telling comment I could make than the fact that last evening at a party was the first time I’ve seen any part of “The Desolation of Smaug”. As with Star Trek, the implementation of these realizations of what I once loved have led to total indifference… this in someone who was once reasonably familiar with Sindar and Quenya.

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