"The hobbit: battle of five armies" is by far the most disappointing film of 2014. There it goes, Peter Jackson lost his edge for me, as he fell for the magic of CGI recreation and extended edition material. After having a relatively better chapter in his Hobbit trilogy with the "desolation of Smaug" providing some interesting set pieces with the barrel sequence and a truly terrifying dragon in the face (or voice) of Benedict Cumberbatch, "The battle of five armies" is an empty spectactle with nothing new to offer.
|Lee Pace nails it as Thranduil|
Plot: Pwned. Basically there is no plot. At all. Of course there wouldn't be since you stretched out a book of 300 pages minus to a trilogy of 3,5 hour movies. It makes perfect sense. While the first film had just indistinguishable dwarves talking and walking, the second put higher stakes with the dragon face off and the take over of Erebor. However, what is left to put in the third film Jackson thought? I know what! I will put an epic battle of 45 minutes (minus some dialogue bits here and there) and everything else will be random characters interacting with each other offer zero analysis of their action and psychosynthesis with extended scenes that serve no point or purpose to the "story". The introduction of the actual desolation of Smaug is especially annoying because it could easily be put into the second chapter and it feels that it drugs the film rather than providing a useful base to continue the story. Really some bizarre choices when it comes to storytelling this time.
Characters: Which brings me to the characters in the trilogy. Jackson handles them as filler material and they never get a single scene shining their courage or dismay for the circumstances. Most of this should go towards the dwarves. With the exception of Balin, Thorin, Kili and into some degree of Dwalin, the dwarves are nobody. We do not care, we know nothing about them or what do they think about Thorin losing it. They just stand there and never do anything that the plots requires. Sure this is not entirely on Jackson's fault but you have three movies man. You could easily try to put some characteristics to each one of them. Additionally, we never understood the basic motivation of Thranduil and why he wishes to wage war. Sure he does say he wants his family's gems but for all of that he acts so distantly cold and selfish? Tauriel on the other hand, whom I personally loved in the DOS, here is absolutely a pointless character. She basically has no arc and her love story with Kili is expanding way too fast especially when they only have shared two scenes in DOS within 2-3 days! Talking about a believable love story. Not only that, but the (current) finale of the "five armies" robs her of coming to closure with her path. She goes nowhere and serves only as an antagonist to Bolg. Proper disappointment though with Benedic Cumberbatch as Smaug as I thought his final scene could have been a way better pay off that what we actually see and his role as the Necromancer is actually a joke - Sauron does not appear or move or fight at all which is LAME.
The cast: Richard Armitage nails it as the paranoid Thorin who keeps getting worse and worse with the dragon sickness. The sheer confusion between his honour and the emotional charger that carries behind him is probably the entire heart of the film. Additionally, Lee Pace just wipes out anyone who happens to share the screen with him and it is a shame that this chapter does not have enough Thranduil. His mannerism and unblinking eyes make him a very interesting individual to watch and his final scene (with Tauriel) is quite memorable as we get to see more inside him. The rest of the cast with the exception of the always likable Luke Evans as Bard (he does a fine job) do not have any special scenes. Ian McKellen is sitting at the background this time and even during his (limited) action scenes, Legolas is proper action canon and finally Martin Freeman officially feels a second/third character in his own movie as basically has nothing to do for the entire film. Always happy to see the great Christopher Lee coming back as Saruman and being less evil and actually good. The sight where he kicks all types of Nazgul ass at Dol Goldur is just awesome!
|Martin Freeman feels as he is not the main character is his own movie (maybe that should be the case)|
Action: There are some inventive bits in action as Jackson constantly finds interesting locations and paths for the unfolding of the fighting. A skirmish of Legolas versus Bolg that resembles a tetris game is actually pretty entertaining and the final fight between Azog and Thorin has actual momentum with the latter losing being a matter of time due to this size (and this is where the film comes genuine close to generate feelings of excitement and threat). The exteded cameos of Christopher Lee, Cate Blancett and Hugo Weaving banishing Sauron from Dol Goldur result in a pleasant as well action sequence with the 92 year old going magic kung fu against the Nazgul.
Battle of five armies: The battle itself unfortunately fails to capture the magic of the original trilogy. It starts well but then it descends into chaos as the good guys seem overwhelmed and ... finally the weight of the battle changes for no reason!? There are some nice moments left and right but overall, there is a great amount of build up that is failed to be resolved. Matters are not especially assisted through the heavy use of CGI and the high frame rate definitely adds to the lessening of the experience.
|Shame of Ian McKellen - he is not in it much, Luke Evans great job as Bard|
CGI: Too much special effects in the last Hobbit and I am actually up for CGI. Problem here is that even the Orcs and Goblins are computer creation and frankly they are not remotely scary or authentic. Does that make sense? Our enemies are facing wave after wave of bad guys and we know that they are fighting in a giant green screen against nothing? The LOTR trilogy had a feeling of palpable threat and we genuine care about the characters and how they are going to face off for example the Uruk Hai in Amon Hen since they are bigger, scarier than orcs and much more powerful. Here, the dwarves take on anyone at anytime with so much ease and finesse that make anyone in the first trilogy beginner in the school of fighting.
Violence: Another thing that annoyed me is that the fight in the caves of Moria was so gruesome (for a PG-12) film and here despite the number of decapitations, there is not a single drop of orc blood. Remember the goblin whose head Aragorn cut off in Moria? You get to see a bit of blood coming off its neck! Here there is no blood at all due to the heavy implementation of CGI and the lack of threat combined with fictional opponents makes everything unrealistic. Thus any effect of violence has not .. well real effect even when important characters bite the dust.
Is it a terrible movie? Not by a long shot. But after the surprisingly entertaining DOS you would expect that Jackson will close nicely his trilogy. Instead we are left with frustrating motivations (Thranduil), murky arcs (Legolas' mother?, Tauriel will do what in the future, Saruman going against Sauron?), unresolved conflicts with only a royal send off to some of the basic characters. Perhaps an extended - omg - edition might resolve some of these issues. Funny thing, I did not have a bad time BUT "The battle of five armies" is not the ground breaking action piece that I was expecting.
+ inventive action sequences
+ Richard Armitage as confused Thorin
+ Lee Pace, Christopher Lee, Luke Evans
+ great build up
- underwhelming final battle
- bizarre violence rating
- too much CGI
- no real threat
- no plot
- not enough character motivation
- Tauriel's arc is pointless
- no emotional pay off