It’s impossible to figure out when The Hobbit movies were damned before they even came out. Could it have been in the middle of its long and drawn-to-the-death war between the Tolkien estate and New Line Cinema over how the latter screwed the estate over on some royalties and how Christopher Tolkien’s tightened pants got to choking a bitch when he really revealed his hatred for the critically acclaimed adaptations of his father’s magnum opus trilogy? Or the legal battles New Line and MGM had to get through on a splitting of rights that they happened to have tangled themselves on? Maybe it was Guillermo Del Toro’s jaded departure after his enthusiasm for the project waning in the years it took to come? Or Peter Jackson suddenly realizing, to his dismay, this is a job he has to do for himself.
No sirree, it’s not an easy thing to guess, but to me… the damnation of the Hobbit films came the moment they made the decision to change what was a very lean and short children’s book into a duo of films. And then further, after production, when a trilogy was decided and so they had to change two movies that were written, produced, and shot as two films into three films with material that proved a lot less willing to stretch itself out to that degree. I’m sure under a storyteller who knew how the hell to expand a tale like this to fit into that format would have done better to make a coherent tale, but that would have had to be BEFORE THEY MADE THE FUCKING FILM TO BEGIN WITH.
Well, shit, based on that revelation, I almost vowed against seeing the Hobbit films. Really. It was an obvious cashgrab. But, I realized I love the paper J.R.R. Tolkien wrote on and all its legacy way too much (it is, among many things, one of the major sources of my English learning… and as such, why I like to blame my English as shitty when I sometimes mix it with Elvish by accident amin il mela) and hence gave myself in as soon as the first movie was released.
But we’re not talking about An Unexpected Journey… yet (I will get those two down ASAP). The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has been out for a week now and it has kind of been getting a lot more lackluster reviews that its predecessors. Which is a bit unfortunate to me, since The Battle of the Five Armies proved to overall become the film I actually enjoyed most out of the trilogy. I don’t think much of any of the Hobbit films. I’d much rather just read the book as it lays on my shelf time and time again. And it is overall true that in the end, The Battle of the Five Armies feels less like a complete film than the other two movies, acting solely as a final act to The Desolation of Smaug or an extended television episode than having its own standalone worth. I feel you could earn a lot more from The Battle of the Five Armies by watching it immediately after The Desolation of Smaug, but then that would mean you’d have watch The Desolation of Smaug and then deal with The Battle of the Five Armies, and man I’d rather not. I can’t wait for this movie to come on home video, I’m cutting the fuck out of the trilogy.
But anyway, shall we recount briefly what tale this particular movie tells? Picking up immediately – without any chance to catch our breath – after The Desolation of Smaug‘s cliffhanger of Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch in both voice and motion-capture) flying to Esgaroth preparing to burn it to the ground, Bard (Luke Evans) finds a way to save his Lake-town by finally killing the impossible-to-kill massive-ass dragon. With the mountain Erebor finally freed up and our 13 Dwarves taking back their race’s previous helm within it, it seems all is going to be a little bit more harmonious. The Elves can now claim their jewels seized by Smaug, Bard looks to helping his people rebuild their community with monetary support from the shares Thorin (Richard Armitage looking like how I’d imagine a dwarf version of Mike Portnoy), and the Dwarves have returned safely to their home.
Except Thorin has now become a little bit more mad with their treasure, particularly in search of the Arkenstone amongst the gold and jewels – the stone considered the birthright of the Dwarves and a crowning jewel for Thorin as their king. His paranoia and frenzied desperation to find the Arkenstone leads him not only to rail against his fellow dwarves, but to also refuse to spare the promised and rightful treasure to either the Elves nor the survivors of Smaug’s attack. This aggressive refusal all but ensures the possibility of all-out war for the claim to Smaug’s relinquished treasure and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), our favorite little hobbit who had been serving as the little adventurer for the audience to live vicariously through, is stuck in the middle of this battle and hoping there is a possibility to stop it.
And then a few more elements enter the ordeal, but I think I spoiled enough. And then the titular battle happens. And then we see the aftermath. And that’s it. Only a handful of actual plot points occur in this final film and yet it still feels it is necessary to add a few lackluster parts in it. Not only that, but the many subplots The Desolation of Smaug jumbles the fuck through suddenly become dismissed as quickly as they entered or they go nowhere, from the Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly)-Fili (Dean O’Gorman) romance, Bard’s imprisonment (and Stephen Fry’s disappointing turn as the Master of Lake-town), and most disappointingly – since it was easily the only bit of Jackson’s injected fan-fiction in this trilogy that I was interested in – the disposal of Gandalf’s (Ian McKellen) investigation in Dol Guldur by cameo rescue. Plus the sudden addition of the worst thing to happen to prequel trilogies since… their existence. No, wait, I mean since Jar Jar Binks. And it’s in the form of Ryan Gage’s thankless performance of The Master of Lake-town’s lacky, Alfrid. A character who is only there as a sudden unnecessary surrogate of the darker side of man and totally just adds nothing to the plot and goes nowhere.
See, the movie didn’t need to do much. Set-up the Battle of Five Armies – namely Bilbo’s involvement and his relationship to Thorin is the big deal, while also the failed negotiations and witnessing Thorin’s deterioration as a person should get a spotlight – deliver on the battle and then give us some closure on not just the conflict, but the journey overall (Smaug’s attack could have actually been left to The Desolation of Smaug and we might have had a bit more of a complete film with its own interior premise in The Battle of the Five Armies). That’s kind of enough, I think, for a film to tell its story and yet The Battle of the Five Armies still thought it was necessary to bloat itself.
The battle itself is my own predicament. I don’t know if the battle was just blown way too large into proportion (certainly in comparison to its length in the book, but anybody who has ever read Tolkien knows that Tolkien was no writer of combat) or if it only feels so long because I stopped giving a shit about what was going on. Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) got shafted in his presence, Azog (Manu Bennett) and Dain (Billy Connolly) are almost entirely non-entities to me from their CGI separating them from the physicality of the films to me (Connolly, from what I understand, had been suffering severely from Parkinson’s, which makes me understand why they couldn’t get him to physically portray Dain – Bennett, I wish was able to physically become an orc though), most of the Dwarves are just there in this film now that there are too many elements, and Thorin himself. Ay yi yi. Poor Thorin.
I’m sure a lot of people actually cared about Thorin’s safety during his thrust into the battle and with his duel against Azog, but I just couldn’t. I stopped. And since I’m not as self-damning as I’d like to be, I think it is because the three movies have the misfortune of having to feature Thorin at different emotional and psychological points separately, rather than giving us a chance to watch Armitage develop into these states over the course of the journey in one fell swoop. It’s just too sudden impact, just as much as the opening of the movie is.
Martin Freeman never has that problem and easily has ended up my absolute favorite performance in all of the Middle-Earth films. He’s just so lived-in, so inspired a choice as the little awestruck Hobbit in a larger-than-life world. He’s simply put the realest dude in Middle-Earth who has to live in the middle of all this scale and grandeur and that’s not just because he is one of the few things on screen that isn’t made with computers haphazardly (not a fair insult to make, I honestly thought The Battle of the Five Armies has the best effects of all the The Hobbit). He’s too relatable. He’s too funny. It’s too awesome.
It is a big battle, though. That’s it. It’s not awe-inspiring, not amazing. It’s just big. This is probably how fireworks users feel after going through their job so long. And one thing that bugs me as Tolkien fanatic is how much of a misnomer it becomes. According to Tolkien, the five armies were the Men of Esgaroth, Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, and Wolves. According to Jackson, it’s Esgarothians, Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, and MOTHERFUCKING LEGOLAS, whose existence within the film is a fucking dismissal of physics and his actions all throughout the movie are treated as such. Honestly, the crazy lack of logic for Legolas as a fighter and character entertained me as much as it annoyed me.
Anyway, there is one thing I am at least looking forward to in an extended edition for The Battle of the Five Armies – Closure. The movie rushes through its resolution and finale way too much to feel like a return to normalcy. We don’t see the full result of what occurred in the film, it just ups and packs up and leaves without so much as a farewell. And that bugs me. There’s a lot of stakes made in the set-up and we don’t end up seeing how the hell they fared with the battle. It just stops.
All you people who bitched about multiple endings for The Lord of the Rings (which I had no problem with), THIS is what happens when you refuse to take care to close out all the arcs. You get this sudden rude awakening out of the world.
In fact, as a result of my disappointment, as a parody of the handling of the ending, and as straight up FUCKING REVENGE for forsaking these characters, I refuse to give this review of the film closure.
I’m done, bitches.