Film #143: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

hobbitDirector: Peter Jackson
Language: English with some Sindarin, Quenya, Black Speech
Length: 144 minutes
Watched on: 12 Jan 2015

Ever the completionist, I obediently made the trek to see the latest Hobbit movie back in January. Like Gravity a year ago, I decided it was worth going to see it in Imax 3D. Unlike Gravity, I wasn’t hungover, so decided it was worth going there by bike, which resulted in a frantic rush as I mistimed it. But I didn’t miss the beginning of the film, so it was fine in the end.

As for the film itself, I feel like I’m probably going to parrot what I said in my review of the second film – after all, Martin Freeman is still a pompous, self-righteous waste of space. The film is rather ramshackle in its structure, and it’s been pieced together using what I think, from my scant memory of reading the book as a child, can’t comprise more than about five pages of the source material.

Visually, as we ought to expect from Peter Jackson, the film is stunning, and the setpieces are fantastic. They also reek of CGI, however, and can be a bit soulless. Most of the film depicts a long battle scene, and most of the effort of special effects went into making the endless armies act realistically.

I couldn’t really work out what the purpose of this movie was in the end. Many analyses tend to focus on Thorin Oakenshield, driving himself crazy over not being able to find the sacred MacGuffin that will allow him to rule the mountain – it seems to be his film, attending carefully to his character development. If by character development you mean stoic delivery, then yeah, I guess. I wasn’t so interested in his arc. I actually preferred watching the scenes taken from The Silmarillion, for example Galadriel coming to Gandalf’s aid near the beginning, as I haven’t actually read that book, and its contents are new to me.

The other problem here is that the scene with the dragon at the start of the movie is very brief, like only fifteen to twenty minutes or so, and this initial scene serves only one purpose, which is to resolve the cliffhanger left by the previous movie. This kind of brazen sequel hook and structure would be much better suited to a television serial, rather than a big budget Christmas blockbuster. I think the fact that the second movie didn’t finish properly really irked me at the time, so the fact that this one doesn’t really begin properly either is just as bad.

I suppose this just paves the way for marathons, though. Despite being underwhelmed by this film, I’d certainly be up for the challenge of marathoning the extended editions of The Hobbit followed by The Lord of the Rings. I’m thinking it’ll take about 24 hours overall, if each extended edition is about four hours each, so no mean feat!

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