Movie Review – The Hobbit Battle of the 5 Armies
There once was a little story of a little Hobbit in a little house…. Then it was mutated, added-on to, stretched and expanded until it was barely recognizable as relating to the original story. A bit like Hulk vs Bruce Banner. Yeah, hulk is humanoid in form, and has dark hair, but that’s where the similarity ends. In my analogy, the movie is the Hulk and the little story is Bruce Banner, just to be clear.
The Hobbit Battle of the 5 Armies is the third installment of the movies based off of the beloved book called The Hobbit. This book serves as sort of a prelude to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, also made into three films. Note the subtlety here – Lord of the Rings was three books made into three movies. The Hobbit was one book made into three movies. This is the single biggest problems with these movies. They are augmented with things that add only time. Not depth, not character, not interest, only time. This complaint has been voiced by the Geekaverse and the mundane world, so this is the last I will mention of it.
Smaug is pretty freaking cool. He is powerful, smart, selfish, and cunning. More Smaug, less everything else would have made this a better movie.
The dwarven castle under the mountain was cool. Layered, complex, art-deco meets gothic stone, and moody.
King Thorin was good. A king with more than a little chip on his shoulder develops a world class case of paranoia (a mash up of his performance in clips from the Shining would be great) and causes a horrific loss of life. He was a good character.
Bilbo was great. He is the best character, his is our stand in. He is the outsider, like us, taken along on a grand adventure. He has a strong sense of loyalty and right vs wrong that is unwavering in the face of circumstances. He is clever, likeable, and funny. Every scene with Bilbo was a joy.
Deaths. Death should have meaning in a story. Without meaning, we don’t know what to feel when the character dies. Is it funny, as when the bad town leader was squished during Smaug’s attack, or is it tragic as when we see the bodies washing up on the shore afterwards. There are two deaths that are supposed to have meaning in this story, but they fall far short – Thorin, and Filli/Killi
Thorin’s death comes after a long, long fight sequence set up by a ridiculous set of events and assumptions (riding mountain goats? It’s a trap, but the trap is never sprung? Let’s split up when we faced with a likely overwhelming force waiting for us… ugh). So, by the time Thorin get skewered, your disbelief has been stretched beyond suspension until it is a limp, flaccid thing unfit for use. I will talk more about Thorin later.
Filli/Killi. They are brothers/cousins. The point is that they are inseparable. And they idolize and are utterly devoted to Thorin. They are his ersatz children. So, rather than keeping these devoted warriors close, he sends them to scout the likely ambush. They, having the combined IQ of a fine shire grown gourd, split up to scout the tower. These two dipshits seem to be auditioning for a teen slasher film – as victim 1 and 2. Killi get caught, gets steel poisoning, and then gets dropped a few stories off of a tower and lands right in front of Filli. Filli flips and storms up the tower. Then he has an extended fight, saves and is saved by his forbidden love, and then gets stuck with a pointy thing and dies. Wait, you say. He fights with his forbidden love? How can that charged situation be meaning less? Well, I’ll tell you.
These two star crossed lovers, a dwarf and an elf, have as much chemistry as raw liver and a pile of lukewarm rice pudding. The lumpy kind of rice pudding. They are utterly unbelievable as romantic partners. Interestingly, when they are fighting together, it’s kind of fun, but that quickly is over and it’s back to their incredulous yearning. His death ends up being a relief.
Last problem – not enough Bilbo. He has scenes, but in this ensemble story that includes no less than 5 armies, 5 wizards, 3 kings, and a guest appearance by the sandworms from Dune, there just is not much room for our little likeable hobbit.
The biggest problem is structure. Bilbo is telling this story, so the book is from his point of view, but it is not really his story. At the core, this is Thorin’s story. He is the character that wants something and it is his need that drives the plot. But our view of him is all from the 3rd person point of view. We don’t get to like him enough to have his turn to the crazy side then his eventual demi-redemption, be the emotional closure that is necessary. There are several other stories going on, but none of them get enough air time for us to be vested in the outcome enough to care. Brand and his people – will they get a new city? Will he lead them? Will the uni-brow weasel get his come uppence? We never know. Will the other dwarf king take over the mountain kingdom? We never know. Will the elven king get his people’s artifacts back? We never know. All we know is that Bilbo and Gandalf ride home – but then Bilbo’s house is getting auctioned off because he was gone too long. He stops the auction, but we don’t’ learn anything else. Who was behind the auction? How is Bilbo regarded in the shire now? We never know. There is not closure for anybody but the dead in this movie. The endings are completely open. This movie is a flimsy hospital gown in a drafty hall.
I’m a sucker for these films, and for these books. I’m not a purist. I don’t think that Arawen was an affront to the legacy, so I’m realistic here about the sausage that has to be made when adapting a book for the screen. This was worth watching for me simply because I needed to see the last film. I accomplished that. What was not accomplished was the ending of a story.