Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Back when The Hobbit was first announced I was dying to see it. With my deep love for The Lord of the Rings still in my heart, and the fact that genius/mastermind/visionary Guillermo del Toro was signed up to direct it, I thought nothing could go wrong. Then it all changed. After MGM held back on production for around 2 years due to financial trouble, del Toro left The Hobbit, with Peter Jackson taking back over the reigns. But at the time this seemed perfect, as after helming The Lord of the Rings trilogy and essentially creating 3 masterpieces, Jackson, despite The Lovely Bones being shit, still had it. Well, I hoped he did at least. I really enjoyed An Unexpected Journey and found The Desolation of Smaug to be really enjoyable, but what about the third and final instalment of the trilogy? Lets find out.

Directed by Peter Jackson and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The plot directly follows the cliffhanger that was set up at the end of The Desolation of Smaug. After the company of Dwarves and Bilbo Baggins failed to vanquish the dragon Smaug, the beast has set its sights for Laketown, hell bent on reducing it to ashes. However, the cliffhanger at the end of the previous film may have been a bad idea, as though all the action in Laketown does pay off, Smaug isn't a major player in this film at all. Instead most of the plot revolves around the re-emergence of Sauron, and his plans to assemble an army in the hopes to wipe out Thorin Oakenshield. Like the first two films, portions of the plot weren't in the original book of The Hobbit, and were either taken from the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings, or made up entirely. This has irked some fans out there, but I'm actually find with that. The problem I have is how much of the extra content is mishandled. Since the release of An Unexpected Journey I've constantly had a debate in my head about what I like and don't like about The Hobbit trilogy. After watching Five Armies I now know. So here it goes. 

The best part about The Hobbit is being able to revisit the world of Middle-Earth, and much like the first two films, Five Armies offers Middle-Earth goodness by the bucket load. From Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, trolls and even Sauron himself, this is a world that has been painstakingly designed, both on a micro and macro scale. Then you have the performances which especially hit a few high notes in Five Armies. From Martin Freeman and his bloody perfect take on the loveable Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the always perfect Ian McKellen as the wise wizard Gandalf, Luke Evans as Bard and, last but not least, Richard Armitage as the leader of the Dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield, it's a film steeped in talent. From every single stage of production, there are so many talented people involved in it that it should be far better than it is. Sadly, the series as a whole has been lacking in a few places, and Five Armies only amplifies these issues.

The issues are many. The love story between Kili and Tauriel that was set up in the previous films meets its end here, and as expected since the moment they looked into each others eyes... it was all for nothing. I know it's a moment in which a Dwarf and Elf see past the hatred their races have for one another, but that's what the Gimli and Legolas friendship was for in The Lord of the Rings. Shoehorning this into The Hobbit only cheapens the Gimli/Legolas friendship, as by the time that happens those Dwarf and Elf taboos were already broken. Then you have the feeling that even with the added content, the story within this trilogy has just been spread way too thin. Yes, Five Armies primarily focuses on a gigantic battle to end all battles, but beyond that it's not exactly heavy on story. I wanted something to dig my teeth into, not a 10 minute bad-ass sequence of Sauron action surrounded by 2 hours of emptiness.

I think that's the general feeling I took away from Five Armies- emptiness. It feels soulless. From the f*cking bizarre choice to use CGI to create the Orcs Azog and Bolg instead of prosthetics, the CGI battles that have no weight to them, the love story that has no place being in the film, the horrible use of green-screen in some places, the decision to create Dain's face entirely using CGI, the fact that Alfird (the shitty comedy relief character) has more lines than most of the company of Dwares and almost as much as Bilbo, the terrible slow motion Legolas CGI scenes, and that the Arkenstone (you know, the point of the trilogy) gets no resolution, left me happy that the trilogy was over. These problem were all topped off by the ending. The ending in The Lord of the Rings was too long for some viewers, but it was a final, heart-warming and melancholy farewell to everyone that took part in that epic journey. It was beautiful. The ending of Five Armies is brief at best, and essentially boils down to Bilbo essentially saying, “Alright Gandalf, that was pretty fun. Catch ya later!”. It feels rushed, half baked and is a complete and utter waste of an ending.

The Hobbit trilogy had its great moments with characters like Bilbo, Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, Gollum, Smaug and Thorin, and locations such as Hobbiton, Trollshaw, Mirkwood and Laketown. Also, all the stuff to do with Sauron was top notch. However, with the good the trilogy gave us the bad, and in comparison to the heartfelt experience that was The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is hollow and empty. I would watch the series again as I did enjoy it, but unless the extended version of it is a massive improvement, I don't see myself ever watching The Battle of the Five Armies ever again. Peter Jackson needs to reign the CGI in, cut down on his budget and understand that less is more. Sadly for The Hobbit, that lesson will be learned a little too late, and that cuts me deep.

As I'm writing this review I just found out that Andrew Lesnie, cinematographer of both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, has passed away at the age of 59. This is a great, great loss. Needless to say, Andrew did fantastic work on both trilogies, and even The Battle of the Five Armies can't be faulted in terms of cinematography. Here's to Andrew and his truly unforgettable work. Thank you for being an integral part of the greatest trilogy of all time. Rest in peace.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies greatly disappoints with a 2/5.


Denis Murphy

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