And I thought the fight scene in “Man of Steel ” would never end? That is, until I saw “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” which refused to end.
Director Peter Jackson ends his second Middle Earth trilogy on an unfashionably relentless low note. We all know prequels are a burden and George Lucas learned the hard way with his “Star Wars” prequel trilogy. Now, Jackson goes the same route with “The Hobbit” trilogy.
But where Lucas’ films got progressively better toward the end of the trilogy, sadly, Jackson’s films got progressively worse the more we stayed in Middle Earth. J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” is a very slim book and was never meant to be three films. Sorry, LOTR fans, it just wasn’t.
But Jackson gave it to you nerds anyway because you’ll eat it up at the box office. Trust me, I tired to stay optimistic throughout each film and knew going into it that it would not live up to Jackson’s critically acclaimed and beloved “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. But why would you focus on the third-to-last chapter of the book and turn it into bloated CGI fighting? And when the clock hit the 45-minute mark I about lost my sanity.
I know Jackson was taking an incredibly slow pace to tell the story through the first two films but this one was completely milked of any story. Where the first chapter (“An Unexpected Journey“) dragged excruciatingly slowly to finally start the journey, at least there was charm and a sense of the old LOTR feel. Plus, we got another great performance from the masterful Andy Serkis as Gollum.
And where the second chapter (“The Desolation of Smaug“) got caught up on “middle chapter narrative” problems, at least there was that roaring dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch) at the end to save the day. But the third chapter is not even worthy enough to be a part of this series.
It was just one ridiculous fight scene so that Jackson could rake in more dough. At the start of the third film Smaug (Cumberbatch) is angry and wreaking havoc onto the pitiful residence of Laketown. Smaug dazzles us by swooping down on the town and fueling fire in everything he sees.
But the fierce heroism of Bard (Luke Evans) comes to the rescue and slays the dragon with the black arrow. Smaug is dead, the battle has been won and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) can finally go home now! Cue title card: “The Battle of the Five Armies.” Darn.
With Smaug out of the picture everyone (dwarves, elves, men and Orcs) races for the mountaintop to claim his or her share of the treasure. But Jackson has nothing left up his sleeves and slums down to a brain dead plot, or should I say plots, of war mania. Jackson loses focus of the book’s main theme and forgets that this is Bilbo’s story we are following, not his.
As for the meaty cast (Freeman, Cumberbatch, Evans, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving and Orlando Bloom), they do their best with what scriptwriters (Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillppa Boyens) give them.
Freeman was always the right pick as Bilbo and still continued to bring charm and wit to his character. Sadly, we don’t get to see enough of him in this last film like we should. McKellen has and will always be Gandalf the Grey. Some of the best scenes in the film are Gandalf and Bilbo sitting on the mountaintop together. Lilly and Armitage were another highlight of the film as Tauriel and Thorin.
Unfortunately, that is not enough to up hold the rest of the film’s baggage. Now, don’t get me wrong, this was very well filmed, but it lacked the heart of the original LOTR trilogy and even the heart of the first two Hobbit films.
“The Hobbit” is not meant to be dark or gritty because it was a children’s book. It was supposed to sweep you off your feet and take you on an adventure, not drain you until the point of exhaustion like this film did.
All of these over-the-top wow moments were not very exhilarating. They were completely preposterous and made the film slip into hilarity. And halfway through the battle the film proceeds to turn into an unexpected comedy (pun intended). From kung fu Saruman the White (92-year-old, Lee), to Legolas (Bloom) swinging on bats in mid-flight, to Galadriel (Blanchett) turning green and back to Bloom defying gravity, literally, by running vertically up in the air on falling stones.
This is where I gave up on the film. Plus, one of the most pathetic performances by Ryan Gage as Alfrid in recent memory. Backed by Jackson’s lack of direction, plot and loss of theme, “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies” can’t live up to its classic source of material. All of this led to an overwhelmingly disappointing final chapter.
Yes, it might seem hard right now, but I assure you that I am a LOTR fan and have been ever since I picked up Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” in grade school and read it. “The Hobbit” was my favorite of Middle Earth because it drew me into Bilbo’s sense of adventure and excitement.
I have held it close to my heart like a Bible ever since. “The Lord of the Rings” book and film trilogy will also hold a special place in my heart as well. And “The Hobbit” trilogy will be easily forgotten over the years to come.
OK Mr. Jackson, you’ve had your fun in Middle Earth, now please leave and never return. “The Hobbit” will always be best experienced in the hands of a reader using their imagination.