It seems so very long ago
The journey started with “hello,”
And then despite my disapproving,
Ever onward we were moving
Through the high and through the low,
Through lands I never dreamed I’d go.
And now at last, it’s with a sigh,
I whisper out a strained goodbye.
Despite the pain I had in store,
I’m glad I stepped out my front door.
From comfort’s hearth to dragon’s den,
I’ll treasure there and back again.
MPAA rating: PG-13
I reviewed the first two Hobbit films long ago as part of my original year-long movie countdown in 2014, when the third installment wasn’t even released yet, and despite my grouping the trilogy together on my list, it’s odd that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing The Battle of the Five Armies until now. Perhaps it’s because this third chapter of Peter Jackson’s prequel trilogy to The Lord of the Rings is most clearly the weakest of the bunch, the main problem being the preponderance of apocryphal embellishments found nowhere in Tolkien’s children’s novel.
It certainly can’t be accused of false advertising: it’s called The Battle of the Five Armies, and that’s exactly what you get—a huge, Middle-earth epic battle between dwarves, elves, the men of Laketown, orcs, and eventually eagles. If all I want out of a movie is sword slashing galore and spectacular set pieces, The Battle of the Five Armies delivers, especially reminding us just how awesome Legolas is. But in stretching out what is only a few pages in The Hobbit book, it falls short of the higher aspirations of The Lord of the Rings, each part of which deserved its near three-hour runtime. What with the painfully forced comic relief of Alfrid (Ryan Gage) and the unsatisfying love triangle of she-elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly of Lost) and he-dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner), it’s obvious that Jackson’s trying to string out this bloated third of a story in a less than successful manner. It’s not bad; it’s just forced at times. And don’t get me started on those were-worms! What is this, Dune?
Yet Middle-earth is never without its joys. Jackson does manage to improve certain scenes from the book, most notably the death of the dragon Smaug, and the themes of greed and loyalty started in An Unexpected Journey are fulfilled in Thorin’s obsession with protecting his newly won hoard. As it was from the start, the casting is (mostly) impeccable, whether it be Martin Freeman as the younger Bilbo Baggins, Luke Evans as heroic Bard the Bowman, or returning familiar faces like Ian McKellen and Hugo Weaving. And by the end, it does feel like a worthwhile journey has been taken, especially with the end credits that recall those of The Return of the King, backed by Billy Boyd’s magnificent “The Last Goodbye.” (See my End Credits Song Hall of Fame.) The Hobbit trilogy is undoubtedly less than The Lord of the Rings, but it is unfortunate that the last one received only a single Oscar nomination for Sound Editing. Surely it could have competed in Makeup, Visual Effects, and Best Song, but the series’ general inferiority made that unlikely. Even so, Jackson’s achievement should not be overlooked; he completed two consecutive epic trilogies, a feat that is clearly harder than it seems if James Cameron’s troubles with the Avatar sequels are any indication.
I still can’t help but feel that an opportunity was missed in making The Hobbit a trilogy rather than a two-parter. Early on, I thought it was perhaps to humanize the thirteen dwarfs so that each character wasn’t just one of the thirteen, and while Jackson was more successful with some than others, most of the dwarves still seemed interchangeable, even for me, a hardcore Middle-earth fan. It’s a shame that Jackson couldn’t leave us Middle-earth lovers with more than a CGI free-for-all and a wistful farewell, but any visit to the land of hobbits, dragons, wizards, and rings is still one worth taking.
Best line: (Thorin) “If more people valued home above gold… this world would be a merrier place…”
Rank: List-Worthy (mainly due to the previous two and my own fondness for the franchise)
© 2016 S.G. Liput
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