When the first Hobbit movie came out, I was a grump about it like most of us, but after some time I learned to enjoy it for what it was. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is seriously amazing, and I didn’t really see the harm in hanging around it a while longer, even without the benefits of good characters or an interesting story.
The second Hobbit film tested this good-natured theory a great deal. I haven’t seen it since that first viewing, and I cringe at the idea of anyone forcing me to try. Nevertheless, I still felt like if this is something you’re into you should feel lucky that commerce allowed Jackson to keep delivering hours upon hours of empty Middle Earth nonsense.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, however, broke me. Now I’m just pissed off about this whole thing. I’m not sure if this one is better or worse than the last, but I know I kind of hate them both. Maybe the first movie is a little okay, but these last two films are just huge, awful wastes of time.
Here’s the whole movie (I can’t really see how these count as SPOILERS, but I’m warning you anyway): Beard the Bard has to kill Smouwg with a gigantic slingshot. So that’s really just the ending of the last movie. Then Thorin Oakenhead has to suffer from Dragon Sickness for an hour. Dragon Sickness is an ailment you get from proximity to dragons. Instead of throwing up, you just act like a dumb asshole in the face of all logic. It’s a lot of fun to watch on the big screen. Thorin, never a likable character to begin with, just yells at everyone and acts stupid. The other dwarves, never likable characters to begin with, cry a lot. Bilbo, maybe the only likable character in the whole shebang, struggles with doing the right thing.
Then the armies show up. I have trouble understanding how they should be counted. Humans are one. Elves are two. Dwarves are three. Orcs are four. Five is the tricky one. I think the fifth army is a late arriving group of Orcs from the north. I call bullshit on that, though. Another Orc army should at best be counted as Army #4.5.
They all clash and Peter Jackson does two really annoying things: First, and easily the most damning, he keeps introducing awesome stuff only to immediately ignore it. Remember that funny line from the trailer when Bill Pullman Legolas tells us “Those bats are bread for only one thing… Wahhh”? Well, those bats show up for about two minutes. Their scary war breeding instructs them to pick up a few good guys, drop them to their deaths, and then leave the movie forever.
Even worse, there’s one bit where Pinkie Knife-Hand Orc wakes up “The Earth Eaters!” or something like that. Jackson makes them seem cool, and it’s pretty exciting when they’re revealed as giant Dune-like worms tunneling under the ground. They make their grand entrance and then leave the film immediately.
Jackson’s other problem, and this might actually not be much of a problem, is setting up this massive battle, then trading it for more personal fights between Bill Pullman Legolas and Big CG Orc #2 while Thorin fights Pinkie Knife-Hand Orc. These fights go on forever and block us from seeing what happens to the actual 4.5 armies. It’s a strange choice considering the movie’s subtitle. But then again, when we view how much attention gets paid to the movie’s actual title subject, maybe it’s to be expected.
There are good things if you squint. I’m a big fan of all goofy fantasy the animals the characters ride. And I do really enjoy Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins. Early in the film we get to witness an extremely ridiculous but still kind of enjoyable fight between lots of old Lord of the Rings characters and some proto-Ringwraiths (I think that’s what they are, anyway). Plus, the movie does eventually end at one point.
But for the most part, this whole thing is just too needless and bloated to justify the many hours I’ve spent on it. That sort of thing is fine for a while, but this is ridiculous. The fact that it added up to so little just feels insulting.