A Battling We Will Go (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, 2014)
The Battle of the Five Armies is a very long and busy film. From it’s opening moments, it is all about trying to out do Return of the king. Dragon fights! Giant battles against orcs! Wizard Battles!
Bilbo and the Dwarves had failed to stop Smaug who attacks Lake Town. As the citizens try and escape his wrath, the Bard seeks to fulfill his family’s promise and slay Smaug. After ending Smaug, the citizens make their way to the ruins outside the the mountain fortress of the Dwarves.
Thranduil arrives with an elven army to reclaim what he feels the elves are owed by the dwarves. However, Thorin becomes obsessed with finding the Arkenstone. To make matters worse, he seems to be falling pray to paranoia. Unknown to the dwarves, Bilbo has found the stone. Concerned that Thorin is being spiritually poisoned by his obsession, he slips out to give the stone to the Bard as a bargaining chip. This only makes matters worse.
Eventually, the armies must unite against the armies of orcs and other evil that sets upon the mountain. This culminates in a battle royale between Oakenshield and Azog.
The Battle of the Five Armies is really a culmination of the desire to recreate the Lord of the Rings. The changes of the first Hobbit were not really needed, but mostly harmless. But the snowball started in the Desolation of Smaug. And here, the battle is the focus. And everything is gigantic. It consumes a large part of the time, and it gets kind of confusing. And everybody starts to blur together.
So many things feel like calls back to the Lord of the Rings. And granted, this is a prequel to those films. The book the Hobbit came before the Lord of the Rings books. But the films are a prequel. And it is expected to see some loose connections. But here, it feels like nothing can stand as it’s own.
This all makes for a rather disappointing final. I did not hate the movie, but I don’t think it comes close to, say, Jackson’s very flawed but still well done King King. The flaws make the good stuff harder to enjoy here.
I don’t hate these movies quite as much as some. This may in part be due to the fact that I don’t have a real tight connection to the series. I did not read the Lord of the Rings books until after I saw the films, as I was nearing thirty. I did not read the Hobbit until after I started watching the films in 2012. So, I never entered the films with presumptions of what I would see, beyond vague memories of the Rankin Bass cartoon from the late 1970’s.
But unlike the Lord of the Rings films, I do not feel the strengths overcome the flaws. And so the Hobbit trilogy is nowhere near as satisfying a watch as the Lord of the Rings films.