The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is Peter Jackson‘s “defining” chapter in his over-stuffed trilogy of Hobbit films, which are mostly more of the same (and to a lesser degree) of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Battle of the Five Armies isn’t quite the snooze-fest that An Unexpected Journey was, but it’s certainly not as tight or as focused as The Desolation of Smaug. The Battle of the Five Armies is an overly long action-packed epic that features more battling and brawling than story and substance. Jackson has definitely blown his load and then some and I sure hope he stops milking Middle Earth once and for all.
Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and his company have reached the mountain and battled the dragon face-to-face. Now, comes the biggest battle yet, pitting many armies up against each other for control over Middle Earth. Meanwhile, a darkness brews in the shadows, hinting (and downright forcefully poking) at what is to come in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Death and sacrifice follow, including elves, dwarfs, trolls, goblins and an endless amount of creatures and ghouls that I can’t keep track of. Things die, people.
Peter Jackson finally (and I mean FINALLY) ends his Hobbit trilogy with The Battle of the Five Armies — the most action-packed entry in his unnecessary trilogy of Hobbit films that spend more time getting folks ready for The Lord of the Rings than focusing on the actual J.R.R. Tolkien children’s novel. Most have either ignored or embraced the trilogy at this point, which makes reviewing this beast of a film slightly easier.
The Battle of the Five Armies isn’t a complete train-wreck of ideas or moments on film (or HFR3D digital or however the heck Jackson shot this damn thing). It’s probably the second best of the series, with The Desolation of Smaug remaining a distant first in terms of quality when it comes to Jackson balancing out the material with his characters and more importantly (to him) — the CG action. Bilbo and the rest of his merry gang of travelers actually progress a great deal in Desolation, which gives the film a little more credit than what came before and after it.
An Unexpected Journey spent far too much time setting things up and nodding towards The Lord of the Rings whenever it could, while The Battle of the Five Armies spends virtually all of its time on the battlefield, soaked in glory and limb dismemberment. Normally, that would be a very good thing and something to commend the filmmaker for, but not when your film is pushing three hours and simply recycling the same action scenes over in over, only swapping out who’s cutting off the heads of who.
We get it, Peter.
There’s not much else going on in The Battle of the Five Armies, especially for main characters like Bilbo or Thorin. Bilbo literally gets knocked out for a good portion of the film, which is lazy storytelling and a complete buzz-kill, because star Martin Freeman was really shaping him up to be a likable lead in the first two films — far more entertaining than whiny Frodo and yet Jackson is again more obsessed with stuffing as many CG Middle Earth characters and creatures on screen as possible, even if that means downplaying the dragon that was the main focus of the second film and even worse — giving Bilbo and Thorin sideline importance when compared to the film’s entire plot structure.
Thorin is reduced to a greedy coward rather quickly and without much on-screen explanation, aside from GOLD GOLD GOLD! This leaves the actual character focus of the film stumbling between anyone currently in the middle of an action scene, because action looks cool and Jackson sure knows how to shoot it.
Why Jackson recently started becoming obsessed with his action sequences more and more is a puzzling question that even I don’t know the answer to, because the biggest complaint The Hobbit films hold as a trilogy rest with Jackson’s inability to cut scenes of pointless detail connecting things to The Lord of the Rings and his overpowering focus on the action and CG spectacle versus actual plot development and character structure. He seems to be fine with throwing in random characters at will as long as the audience will clap or gasp at the fact that they maybe once saw this person in a Lord of the Rings film or piece of promotional tie-in.
All of that aside — The Battle of the Five Armies still looks quite nice. It’s clean and shiny and shows off all of the new wonders of computer animation, especially scaling rather large action sequences that seem to go on forever and ever. The film’s 3D elements do enhance the overall viewing experience and give this new trilogy a distinct look and feel when compared to the much darker and more adult-friendly Lord of the Rings films.
Jackson may rush the moments that need time to breathe, while also stretching things far beyond their welcome, yet The Battle of the Five Armies is still a watchable piece of entertainment that never passes that bare minimum level of being just a good movie that’s far from great and not exactly the worst thing in cinemas right now. It’s just another Hobbit movie that you see or not see, depending on how much time you plan on killing at the mall or how many movie theater gift cards you received for Christmas. Don’t set your hopes much higher than that.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – 7/10