June 21, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

Peter Jackson, 2014
Five Armies is the final chapter in Jackson's revisit to Middle Earth with his Hobbit trilogy. The film itself is similar to the last film The Return of the King in the Lord of the Rings in the sense that it's the previous two films set you up for an epic conclusion which includes a battle and the hopeful restoration of order. But while Return of the King is arguably the best in the trilogy, Five Armies immediately feels like the worst of the Hobbit trilogy. What is supposed to be a significant end to the story comes off as a jolting and depthless special effects showcase.

Armies starts off where the last film left off, where Smaug has now exited the Lonely Mountain with plans to attack Lake-town. The whole cliffhanger device is a weird one to use when Smaug is ultimately dealt with quite quickly and without much spectacle. After this Armies continues to be problematic for a variety of reasons. Very much like the Lord of the Rings, the stakes are high for all of the characters involved. They all have something significant to gain or lose, and there is a collective need to work together to obtain victory over the dark elements. In Rings Frodo Baggins is desperate to destroy the Ring that has caused so much turmoil in Middle Earth. In the Armies film, his father Bilbo is not the central character but more of a secondary support character. They have all pulled together to get to this point in the story. But instead of a Hobbit in the spotlight, this part of the story is heavily focused on Dwarf king Thorinn Oakenshield. There are many eyes on the mountain that he wants to reclaim for his people. But he has grown intoxicated by the newfound treasure that had been held captive by dragon Smaug. As the various races of Middle Earth zero in on the mountain, there should be a sense of tension brewing. There should be a certain pacing at work. The Elves, the humans, the Orcs. There should be some ebb and flow to their saga. But no, instead the story just throws itself into a battle quite coldly. And where is Thorinn? Oh, he's not fighting. Because he has become so obsessed with the treasure inside the mountain that he has become the coke-head who won't leave the bathroom. So instead of the Lonely Mountain becoming this backdrop for a mesmerizing battle scene, it becomes a canvas for a lot of copy and paste CGI. It is all action with no emotion. Something happened with this final chapter where all of the human elements are nowhere to be found. It's difficult to get invested in any of the characters. Jackson spent too much time in the editing room and not enough time in the writing room.

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