Director/Stars: Martin Freeman (Actor), Peter Jackson (Director)
Watched: December 18, 2014
Summary: More is more is more is more!
What happens when you expand 44 pages at the end of a novel into 144 minutes of film? Well, in the case of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, a whole lot of fighting. Enough to provides sustenance for an entire generation of computer artists. Smaug, arguably my favorite character in this second trilogy, regrettably bites the big one (and he is a big one) about ten minutes in. Aside from about 5-10 minutes at the end the rest is one big battle — in several waves, with several giant duels. With a lot of Moping and Brooding Thorin inserted for good measure.
The film looks utterly gorgeous. We expected that, but perhaps this one looks better than ever. It’s the only Peter Jackson Tolkien movie without a whole lot of travel. Basically, the sets focus on Laketown, The Lonely Mountain, Dale, and panning views all around the above.
The movie uses a WHOLE bunch of reoccurring Tolkien plot devices, including all of the following, but not in any way limited to: creepy cowardly advisors with bad teeth, kings under the sway of madness that delays the inevitable in the name of drama, Gandalf being rescued, greedy dwarves, wraiths, stuck up elves, inter-racial love, orcs, bigger orcs, tougher orcs, and the ever popular Eagle rescue.
There are too many Peter Jackson favorites to count as well, but leading offenders are: overhead shots, helicopter shots, the eye of Sauron, ugly orc leaders, amazing dwarf hairstyles, Legolas, and semi-comic orc death.
I loved the pig mount. The mountain goat mounts were also cool, and clearly seem an example of reverse artistic pollution as so many things in LOTR influenced the art (and sound) design of World of Warcraft, but the goat is surely borrowed right back. Touché!
The extended duels at the end were some of the best parts of the film. The complex Azog on Thorin and Legolas/Tauriel vs Barg? fights. But Thorin could have learned a lesson from Game of Thrones Season 4, never count out your hideous boss opponent until he’s really really dead. Or wear your mithril.
And Evangeline Lilly looks even better as an elf than as a human.
Some nitpicks. The Gandalf rescue was perhaps the scene that bothered me the most, partly because it just doesn’t fit with the mythology, and partly because it felt like an excuse to cameo Saruman, Elrond, and Galadriel. Really, if the group of them fought off the ghostly ring wraiths and banished Sauron why did Gandalf need to run around like crazy at the begging of Fellowship to figure out what was going on? And why was it so hard to convince them of the menace? It’s one thing to foreshadow in order to blend the franchises, another to make it inconsistent.
Also, what’s with amping up new orc techs that are then NOT used by Sauron with his even bigger army in the “future” (aka in ROTK)? Examples, the Dune style earth worms, the big guys with catapults on their backs, and the wall breaking headache loving troll. We know this was just Peter Jackson wanting to amp it up.
And why do Thorin and crew charge out to the battle WITHOUT their nifty dwarf armor? Or even a few sets of mithril shirts? Would have come in handy when Thorin AND Kili got STABBED to death!
Overall, not as good as Smaug, but still good fun.
Lastly some technical bits: Again I saw The Hobbit in HFR 3D (at the Arclight). Two years ago, I found this new flickerless tech fascinating, hyper realistic, and more than a little disquieting. This year, either I’ve gotten used to it (thanks to my 120hz TV) or Peter Jackson and crew really worked the solve the problems. I’m pretty sure it’s the later. Sure, the film was crystal clear, and sure, you could still count every pore on the actor’s faces, but it no longer looked as crazy fake. I suspect they added a lot of motion blur. I bet it cost a lot of money.
ps. I guess that wolves on ice chasing the chariot from the trailer will have to wait for the extended cut.