The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review: Utterly Insignificant

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December 17, 2003, exactly 11 years ago today, my parents took my 12-year-old self to see Return of the King on opening night. As I sat there, this grand story ending before me, something happened that was new to me. Gandalf put the crown on Aragorn’s head, naming him king, and I started to cry. With warm tears rolling down my face, my journey with these films had come to an end. I was truly moved, and the rewards of having taken that journey still benefit me today.

Flash forward to the present, where there’s another chance at this feeling. From the same world. The same filmmaker. And it failed.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ends a prequel trilogy with a film that feels like it isn’t even trying to have the same effect. Sure, the opening scene where Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans, the true hero of this movie) faces off with the vengeful dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch providing his slithery voice once again) is a stunning and dramatic set piece. In fact, it’s the best Battle of the Five Armies ever gets. It’s a shame, though, that it feels more like a conclusion to last year’s entry, the far superior Desolation of Smaug, than the start of a new chapter.

From there, Thorin (Richard Armitage) retreats into his halls of gold and loses most of the redeeming qualities that made him watchable in the earlier Hobbit films. Bilbo (Martin Freeman, delightful as ever), meanwhile, takes a back seat this time around.

The first act of Battle of the Five Armies sets up its title, preparing us for a war that everyone seems a little too eager too fight (the war in Rings was about the fate of the world, this one is about gold). Then the battle just kind of…starts. Somewhere over the past decade, director Peter Jackson lost the tension-building abilities that made the massive conflicts in The Two Towers and Return of the King some of the best on-screen battles of all time. Here, they’re suddenly just fighting, and it’s really hard to care.

Things pick up when Thorin eventually gets over himself and joins the fray. The tight climax featuring most of the trilogy’s main characters in a relatively small area works much better than the battle itself. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) gets a few moments that’ll have fans cheering, while the newly created Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) continues to shine.

But I can’t shake the feeling that this film, and therefore the two preceding it, would have been much better had this 300-page novel been adapted into two films instead of three. That’s most peoples’ complaint with the Hobbit trilogy, but it’s a well-founded complaint. Still, this disappointment stings quite a bit, mostly because last year’s Desolation of Smaug was such a heavy improvement over the dull Unexpected Journey that started the trilogy. It’s hard not to imagine how the best scenes of all three films would have fit into two sleeker and better films. I’m sure a fan will edit that cut in the near future (hell, I’ve got some ideas myself), but for now we have to take Battle of the Five Armies as the true end to our time on Middle Earth. Luckily, endings aren’t everything. Grade: C+

By Matt Dougherty

One Response to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review: Utterly Insignificant

  1. […] was disappointed with how the final Hobbit movie turned out. The Battle of the Five Armies felt like a […]

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