Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies … Finale! … I mean FINALLY!

If you were disappointed that the "desolation of Smaug" part of the story never happened in the movie "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," you be glad to know that seemingly unimportant event is dealt with in the first ten minutes of the new film.

If you were disappointed that the “desolation of Smaug” part of the story never happened in the movie “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” you be glad to know that seemingly unimportant event is dealt with in the first ten minutes of the new film.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a lot like flirting with Evangeline Lilly, at first it’s going great, she smiles, and then Orlando Bloom walks up and cock-blocks you.

When I originally heard that Peter Jackson was going to direct The Hobbit, I had reservations. His Lord of the Rings films are great, but dark and violent. Jackson took advantage of every opportunity to add some PG-13 gore to those films. I would have preferred Guillmero del Toro’s take, which I would have imagined as being more whimsical and closer in tone to the book.

Then it was announced that The Hobbit would be two movies. That made sense. Even though the book is short, I could see it being split into two films.

But Jackson and New Line were not happy taking our money twice for an adaptation of a short story. The announcement of three Hobbit movies gave me pause. And I wrote a blog about it:

The Hobbit — Peter Jackson’s Cash Grab

I never reviewed the first two Hobbit movies, so here’s a quick look at them.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey starts off slow and spirals into stupidity. Jackson moves the story forward at a snail’s pace, yet manages take no time to truly introduce us to the characters. And everyone in that film is irritating.

Azog kindly leads moviegoers to the exit after a butt-numbing three hours of watching The Battle of the Five Armies.

Azog kindly leads moviegoers to the exit after a butt-numbing three hours of watching The Battle of the Five Armies.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has more action, but, again drags on. And just in case you thought this was an adaptation of The Hobbit and not a Lord of the Rings prequel, Legolas arrives! The Smaug’s desolation is no where. Instead the film ends up being a very long teaser for the final installment. Evangeline Lilly arrives too since Jackson has no idea how to develop the dwarfs. The only payoff, Smaug.

The Battle of the Five Armies begins exactly where the last film ended. The desolation of Smaug has begun, and will be over before you know it. While the first two films had a lot of travel, with Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf companions meeting all manner of friends and foes, Five Armies keeps all the action within the confines of the Lonely Mountain. The film feels geographically constricted.

Without Martin Freeman, these films would be beyond saving. He presents Bilbo as a sympathetic character, someone who was very content in his own little village. There are hints that Bilbo now sees himself as part of a bigger world, but not much time is spent developing Bilbo.

As a matter of fact, for a film called The Hobbit, Bilbo is surprisingly absent from most of the film. He has a few scenes involving the Arkenstone*, but spends most of the film on the sidelines.

These films drag. And I liked Chariots of Fire.

Unconvincing special effects mar the film. Instead of trying to create a fantastic reality, team Weta produced a bunch of scenes that look like cut scenes from a video game. At one point Legolas is jumping on stones as they crumble and fall. I haven’t seen such action since the Nintendo Entertainment System.

There just is not enough good for me to recommend the film. Freeman and a few good action scenes do not make the film worth the time or money to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

*I believe the Arkenstone will return in The Avengers: The Infinity Gauntlet films.

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.





The Hobbit – Peter Jackson’s Cash Grab

Poster for "The Hobbit"

“The Hobbit” will now be released as three films starting December 2012. Poster courtesy Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” is a short novel aimed toward the young and the young at heart. Written in 1937, it is a brisk tale of a young hobbit who goes on a journey with the wizard Gandalf and a group of dwarves to save Middle Earth. Along his journey he meets ogres, elves, Gollum and the dragon Smog. Really that is the  story. And there is a ring.

I blame the ring. Seventeen years later, Tolkien produced the massive literary epic “The Lord of the Rings.” An epic so massive that it had to be published in three volumes. While “The Hobbit” is short and fun, “The Lord of the Rings” is Tolkien’s successful attempt to produce a epic with its own mythology. And the entire epic boils down to one basic story element, a young hobbit must travel to Mordor and toss the ring into a pit of lava.

Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy manages to juggle many of the details of the novel into a great trilogy of movies. The books were long and detailed, so it was expected, if not required, that the films would be large in scope and great in length. Jackson even released longer versions of all three films on DVD and Blu-ray. I liked the long version a lot.

But then talk of filming “The Hobbit” started. After a lot of negotiating, Jackson returned as director. Many fans expressed enthusiasm over this decision. I did not. Originally director Guillermo del Toro was to direct the film. I thought this was a much better choice. For me, it was not a question of who was a better director. Both have produced enjoyable movies. However, based on “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy 2,” I believe del Toro had an eye for whimsy and a wide-eyed sense of wonder that would make “The Hobbit” an adventure accessible to adults and children.

As soon as it was announced that “The Hobbit” would be divided into two full-length feature films, I began to have doubts about the movie. This was going to be big; too big for a story about a hobbit, a wizard and a group of dwarves. The the teaser trailer came out. Visually it was beautiful. But it looked like it should have been titled “Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Part IV.” Based on the teaser, Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is so enslaved to his vision of “The Lord of the Rings” that I have trouble having any real excitement about it.

And then there’s an article published July 30, 2012 by Variety.

Jackson confirmed that he is making a third installment of “The Hobbit.” I have read the book many times. Given Jackson’s love of long screen times, I can’t imagine any installment being less than two and a half hours long. There is no artistic or narrative-based reason for stretching this short children’s story out to the length of an epic, released over a two-year period.

So that leaves the reason most decisions in Hollywood are made: Money! This third installment involved some hurdles, one of which must have included Jackson’s fee for directing a third film. Jackson, the writers and the producers stand to make a lot of extra money for assembling an entire movie out of extra footage. The studios, Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema, stand to make money by releasing the third installment as a tent pole summer film. To add injury, the movies are being filmed at 48 frames per second, which will most likely translate to a premium added to the ticket price to compensate for new projection equipment.

If Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” was a fun there-and-back adventure appealing to young readers, Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a bloated three-film epic designed to alienate that same audience. As an adult who looked forward to the film, I’m exhausted just thinking about this project.

Copyright 2012 Paul George