Musings on the final Hobbit trilogy: The Battle of the Five Armies

TheHobbitBattleOfFiveArmies

Seems like it was ages ago since I saw the first Hobbit film. But in fact it was exactly two years ago that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released. There were – and still are – quibbles about how a 320-page book warrants a three-film adaptation, and I was actually one of those people who didn’t mind it. I LOVED the Middle-Earth universe that J.R.R. Tolkien built, and The Lord of the Rings is perhaps my favorite film trilogy ever and so in my mind it was a worthwhile journey. The second film introduced us to the best CGI-dragon ever conceived on film, and so The Desolation of Smaug was even more exciting second chapter in The Hobbit journey. I listed 10 reasons why I loved that movie, with the wine barrel sequence and of course Smaug himself being the major highlights.

For some odd reason though, the third and final film just didn’t give me as much of a rush as the first two. I mean, I saw the trailer, then the second one, but I wasn’t feverishly anticipating it. In fact I didn’t even post hardly anything about it until I finally saw it early this month at a press screening. Perhaps I’m not the only one who’s feeling meh about the final Hobbit. Per EW, though the film won the box office this weekend with $56 mil, compared to the rest of the Hobbit films, The Battle of the Five Armies didn’t fare as well: The first film in the trilogy made $84.6 million its opening weekend while the second took in $73.6 million. The studio marketing machine emphasized on the phrase “One Last Time” and how one feels about such sentiment depends on how one feels on this franchise. As for me, as much as I’ve enjoyed the excursion to Middle Earth, there and back again as it were, I was ready to bid my farewell to Bilbo & co.

There are a few things that I love about the first two films that I still like this time around, so let’s start with those…

  • I still love Martin Freeman as Bilbo, he’s just so easy to root for. He pretty much is the most selfless character in the whole Middle Earth, and he pretty much risk his neck every time he goes out of his way to prevent war. I’ve always liked his casting and not only he has a believable resemblance to Ian Holm but he has that manic energy and whimsical antics that makes him so fun to watch.TheHobbit3_Bilbo
  • The character arc of Thorin is a strong one here, and Richard Armitage shows that inner conflict convincingly. The role takes advantage of the actor’s specialty of projecting ‘dark, brooding, conflicted’ in a magnetic way. The scenes where he struggles with the dragon sickness is one of the main highlights in the film, though how he recovers from it seems too quick and too easy, and perhaps there’s more of it that’s left in the cutting room floor?
    TheHobbit3_Thorin///
  • The slithery Smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is still awesome to behold. I’d say if there is one thing that makes it worthwhile to see The Hobbit movies in 3D glory, it’d be to see Smaug. Too bad the fire-breathing dragon didn’t quite have much screen time despite that awesome cliffhanger we saw in the second film. The action-packed sequence in Lake Town, involving Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) doing what he does best, is thrilling to watch. The special effects with Dolby Atmos sound is especially incredible in this sequence and I have to admit I wish Smaug had more screen time. But of course, he’s done his duties… that is to lead everyone to the main event: The Battles of the Five Armies.

    TheHobbit3_Smaug

Now, people who have been anticipating the battle sequences, this movie certainly delivers. It’s amazing how in the book, the only reference to the battle only amounts to a sentence, but here we’ve got at least a whole hour worth of battle sequences. We’ve got the Dwarves, Laketown people, and the Elves fighting a whole bunch of Orcs and Goblins, including a whole army of the Dol Guldur Orcs that are supposedly VERY scary and powerful.

That brings me to the not-so-good things about this film:

  • You’d think that the battle would be the most exciting part of the film, I mean I was expecting something in the vein of Battle of Helms Deep in LOTR: Two Towers, which was one of the most amazing rain scenes ever filmed, but it’s not even close. Somehow I find the whole sequence to be rather boring and by the end of it, I was getting so battle fatigue I couldn’t care less who wins. It’s hard enough to keep up with the current participants as it is, we’ve got Thorin’s cousin, Dwarves of the Iron Hills, joining in. Led by Billy Connolly whose accent is so distracting it’s hard to concentrate on what the heck is going on. I have to admit that my mind wandered for most of the battle scenes. In fact, I started noticing the strange looking codpiece that Azog, the Orc chief, is wearing. Seriously, I never noticed that before but I couldn’t stop giggling once I noticed that.
    TheHobbit3_AzogOrcs
  • I think the battle would’ve held more meaning to me if I had a firm grasp just what’s really at stake here. But even those lovable dwarves in the first two films just aren’t so fun here as they’re barely even in the movie! Even the dramatic tension surrounding the Arkenstone of Thrain, that is THE single most important gem of the whole Erebor’s vast treasure, just wasn’t as compelling as I’d imagine. I get that it’s a family heirloom for generations until it’s lost to Smaug, but somewhere along the way, its significance to the people is dwarfed (pardon the pun) by the overwhelming visual spectacle and action extravaganza. What’s worse is that the two main characters, Bilbo and Gandalf, often end up in the sidelines during most of the action. I don’t know why Peter Jackson would rather give a lot of screen time to Alfrid (Ryan Gage), the conniving servant of the Laketown Master, that doesn’t serve the story much at all. He sort of became a comic relief by the end before he disappeared and never to be seen again.
    … 
  • The unnecessary and uninvolving romance between Tauriel and Kili is once again aggravating because it’s yet additional filler on top of the already piled-up filler to make up the three films. I literally roll my eyes every time they appear on screen and the repeated farewell scenes. No offense to Evangeline Lily and Adrian Turner but really, I feel nothing for their characters and their supposed *relationship.* Meanwhile, Legolas (played by the eternally youthful Orlando Bloom) is reduced to nothing more than a Ninja Elf with his Matrix-like moves. Never mind the character inconsistencies with the follow-up movies, when the fight scene was over, some people actually applauded him in the theater.
    TheHobbit3_TaurielKili
  • Despite all of those thrilling fight and battle sequences, I was left feeling meh and unfazed. Even when one major character perished, followed by yet another seemingly-endless farewell, I still remain emotionally-detached. I mean I cried when Boromir met his end and I still get teary-eyed thinking about that scene. Now, it’s no fault to the actors in The Hobbit as I think they all did a good job in their respective roles, but more of a problem with the script (done by no less than FOUR writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro).
  • The scenes with Gandalf, Galadriel and Saruman as they battle the evil Sauron seems disconnected with the battle of the five armies. I don’t know if it’s the choppy editing or that simply an issue that there are just too much going on. In the Lord of the Rings, it’s clear who the main enemy is, but The Hobbit trilogy overall lacks the focus that gives the quest real meaning.
  • [SPOILER WARNING]
    Towards the end, there’s all these references to The Lord of the Rings. Thranduil (Lee Pace) told Legolas to find Aragorn, even though he didn’t specifically mentioned his name, it’s obvious who he’s referring to. Now, I don’t know how old Aragorn is supposed to be during The Hobbit timeframe, but this scene just feels forced to me. Pretty much every reference to LOTR, whether it’s Bilbo playing with the ring, the appearance of the demon Sauron, feels like nothing more than nostalgia. I suppose the continuity is to be expected, but it just further proves how much The Hobbit as a franchise just won’t hold up on its own and it reinforces the fact that they don’t measure up to LOTR movies.

TheHobbit3_ThranduilBard

In summary, the final Hobbit does have its moments and some of the action sequences are pretty entertaining. The attention to detail is amazing too, there’s really a lot to marvel in terms of visuals, and I remember ooh-aahing Thranduil’s Elven Elk with its majestic antlers. But overall, there are more bad than good here, which is pretty disappointing. I expected something more epic in terms of story, not just visual spectacle. It’s actually the shortest of all the Hobbit movies, only 144 min compared to 169 and 161 min of the previous two films, yet I checked my watch the most often whilst watching this. I’d think that even the most ardent Middle Earth fans should feel relieved that it’s finally over, if only it could’ve ended on a much higher note.

I don’t think I’ll be revisiting the Hobbit movies anytime soon, but for what it’s worth, it does make me want to rewatch my Lord of the Rings extended box-set.

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Well, what did you think of the final Hobbit movie? 

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40 thoughts on “Musings on the final Hobbit trilogy: The Battle of the Five Armies

  1. I haven’t seen yet I have read mixed reviews from many places including a Nine Inch Nails forum where some are wondering when will a fan-edit of the three films ever come in because I heard the story was good enough for one 2-3 hour film but when I heard it was going to be 3 films. I thought it was insane and probably is which is why fans aren’t rushing to see this film.

    1. Hi Steven! Yeah I think a 3-hr film or at the most 2 films at 2-hrs each would suffice. I probably would’ve loved it more if the finale had been excellent that it’d justify the 3 films. Alas it wasn’t the case.

  2. Pretty much in complete agreement with you here, Ruth. The audience also applauded Legolas in my theater as well (and the movie as a whole by the end, too), and it left me baffled. But yeah, this one didn’t it for me, and so much of it felt so forced. Also, I too found myself questioning just how old Aragorn was supposed to be, ’cause I thought these Hobbit flicks were supposed to take place quite a while before the Rings films, so what was up with that reference? Argh, I dunno, haha, but yeah, this was a pretty overall weak conclusion to this trilogy. 😛

    1. Hi Chris! I think the Legolas fight scenes were fun to watch, it’s just afterwards you’re left w/ the bafflement of ‘hmmm he wasn’t THAT Ninja-like in LOTR was he?’ The nostalgia factor was fine in the first two movies but maybe I just got bored in this third one and it just wasn’t blended well w/ the main story.

    2. Ted S.

      Hey Chris, from the books and the movies, Aragorn is one of the few people that can live for a long time since he was raised by the Elfs. If you remember in The Two Towers, it’s revealed that he’s like 180 years old or something like that, I forgot the exact number. This movie took place probably 70 or 80 years before the events of LOTR so Aragorn is already a full grown man.

      1. Hey Ted! I figure that Aragorn was probably already living during the Hobbit era, but that reference kinda took me out of the movie a bit. Remember it was after Kili died and Tauriel mourned him? It’s such a lame scene that my mind wandered to reminiscing about how fantastic LOTR and Aragorn were, instead we get stupid love triangle like this. Aaarrgh!!

        1. Ted S.

          Yeah that was just a lame addition to connect the story of how Langolas will meet with Aragorn. It’s been a while but he’s never mentioned in the book but yeah Aragorn is already a grown man in this timeline. I still don’t understand why Kili suddenly became sort of a supporting character in the last movie and this one. If I remember correctly he’s wasn’t that big of a character in the first movie and I didn’t care that he died at all. In the original trilogy, Jackson did such a great job with supporting roles that I cared about them, here I didn’t care for anyone. I wish they’d focus more on Bilbo and Thorin but the focus was all over the place in this movie.

  3. Surprisingly, I pretty loved it. Not as a single movie, of course. As a movie with two third of the duration depicting a grand battle, this movie is underwhelming. Yet, as a finale to a saga, it’s pretty handsome for me… not in an excessive way, but in a humble way. At least, with many references to LOTR, it doesn’t try to be LOTR.

    1. Hi Paskalis! “…with many references to LOTR, it doesn’t try to be LOTR” Interesting that you said that, and I’d have agreed w/ you in the first two films but the final film seems like it’s trying too hard to be as solemn or dignified as LOTR and w/ less humor, but it just falls short to me. I thought the battle scenes were boring too, it’s just way too much going on.

  4. Wow. A very so-so score? That is sad to hear. Was going to see this but I promised my son I would go with him first. Watched and reviewed Boyhood instead. This is next on the watch list. I’ll just keep any expectations at a luke warm level.

    1. Hi Keith! Yeah I even think 2.5 is a bit generous, but I do like the Middle Earth universe. It’s not a complete waste of time, just wish it had been made more of an emotional impact.

  5. Is it weird that I haven’t seen any of these Hobbit movies? Is it weirder that I haven’t seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies? Like, I saw a few minutes of the first one and then…that was it. Now it all feels so daunting…like, this would be, what, 48 hours of my life? Should I do it?

    1. Hi Drew! Oh it’s not weird at all that you haven’t seen any of the Hobbit movies, esp since you haven’t seen LOTR. But I LOVE the LOTR trilogy so I’d say YES, give those a shot! It’s definitely a much more compelling trilogy. I mean, it’s one of my fave trilogies of all time as I love pretty much all three films equally.

      1. I will have to just commit to a weekend! LOL, I smell a ‘guys retreat’ coming on. My besties all love these movies. ADULT SLUMBER PARTY!!! I better get my footie pjs ready.

  6. Ted S.

    We’re pretty much in agreement here Ruth, such a let down after the last movie. I bought the 3D disc of Desolation of Smaug and watched before I saw Battle of Five Armies and was so excited. I thought the opening 30 minutes or so was great but then it just went down hill fast when the battle starts. Somehow Jackson and company couldn’t convey the drama from Tolkien’s book onto the screen. Seeing the movie on HFR was very distracting, all the interior scenes looked like I was watching a behind the scenes special because the sets looked like movie sets! It took the fantasy element right out the door for me. Also, the battle sequences were quite boring, I don’t know if Jackson just got bored or forgot how to stage good action scenes, many of them lack imagination and just plain boring. The fight between Thorin and the main villain, forgot his name, went way too long. Reminded me of the fight between Kong and the T-Rex in King Kong, I love action but Jackson needs to learn how to edit down his scenes.

    Don’t get me started on the romance between Tauriel and Kili, it’s the dumbest thing Jackson and company ever came up with. I understand why they wanted a strong female character for the movie since there was none in the book but why did they have to put her in the stupid love triangle?! Rant over.

    1. WOW you bought the Desolation of Smaug in 3D? May I borrow that at some point? I’d love to see Smaug again when he’s in Erebor, I love those scenes.

      Yeah, this one is kinda ho-hum. I think you may have a point that PJ himself might’ve lost his passion towards the end. I mean compared to the battles in the LOTR movies, this one just paled in comparison. I guess the more advanced technology doesn’t always produce great result. In the end, it’s the story that makes us care and the weak narrative here doesn’t help. Yeah, the fight (and death scene) of Thorin went on too long too, and it always makes me laugh how people die so gracefully (and seemingly without pain) after such a brutal fight, ahah.

      Yep, the less said about the stupid romance thing the better. I hate that they incorporated a strong female character but only reduced her to a subject of a love triangle.

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah I got it for cheap on Black Friday sales and I thought the 3D even looks better on my home theater than at the big cinema. The scenes with Smaug was awesome, a few times it appears like he’s looking right at you in 3D. Feel free to come by and pick it up at my place, I’ve bought a few 3D discs ever since I got the new 3D projector. I’ve watched Hugo over the weekend, I’ve never seen the movie before since I wanted to wait till I got a 3D projector to see it. And I loved it, the 3D effects were awesome! I’m going to watch Dawn of Planet of the Apes this week, I didn’t see it in 3D in theater but since it’s shot in 3D, I bought the 3D disc.

        1. I wish I could say the same! I liked the first two films, and I was one of the defenders of the split into 3 movies. Alas his final one didn’t quite live up to my expectation.

  7. Great review, Ruth. I thought Smaug and Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice, once again, delivering. In fact, I’d say BC is up there in my “top five” favorite actors working today. He’s like a new Jeremy Irons. I’d follow his voice anywhere 😉 . Your quote, “I’ve enjoyed the excursion to Middle Earth, there and back again as it were, I was ready to bid my farewell to Bilbo & co.” I think that’s perfectly stated. There has to be a beginning, a middle, and an end. Time to see what Jackson has next in store. I hope something completely different. Time to reinvent himself.

    1. Hi Cindy! Cumberbatch did a smashing job voicing Smaug, he actually gave a life of its own! I still prefer Toby’s voice [natch!] but yeah, most Brits do have such lovely voices don’t they, on top of being so great to look at 😉 Yeah, I’m curious what PJ will tackle next, hopefully something smaller and CGI-free.

  8. I was just about to write my review on this and I thought I took a peek on yours…maybe you like it more than me….to my surprise you didn’t like it!! Can you imagine how I feel then?

    It’s bad!! Really bad!

    1. Hey Nov! I’ll check out your review shortly. Yeah it’s quite a letdown from the previous two films, and not even close to how excellent LOTR was as a franchise.

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  10. “For some odd reason though, the third and final film just didn’t give me as much of a rush as the first two. I mean, I saw the trailer, then the second one, but I wasn’t feverishly anticipating it. ” – I know the reason 🙂 The lack of crush on Armitage, if I may rhyme 🙂 I am definitely not seeing this cash grab in cinema but I may be tempted to see it for Blanchett on DVD

    1. Ahah, well that’s partly true, but I really do like the Middle Earth universe even before Thorin came along. I mean I don’t really have a crush on any of the cast of LOTR (well ok I do have a thing for Karl Urban) but I still LOVE those films far above this one. Yeah, just rent this one Sati, it’s still worth seeing if you’ve been following the other films, and Blanchett is always great to watch and she’s still good here.

  11. I really enjoyed this one. After an embarrassingly bloated first film, these last two Hobbit movies were a thrill ride. It actually made me want to revisit Middle Earth. 🙂

    1. That’s interesting that we have the opposite feelings about this one and the first two. Well, if anything we agree it makes us want to revisit Middle Earth as in LOTR 🙂

  12. I actually enjoyed this one quite s bit, but all of your complaints are entirely accurate. The movie has a lot of flaws, but I guess since I really wasn’t expecting much, I still liked it. Bilbo and Thorin can probably take most of the credit for that though. 😉

    1. Hey Billy! After the decent first two films, and the second one ended in such a WOW cliffhanger, I expected something more epic and emotional out of this finale. Instead I felt kinda bored. I don’t know if it’s because I was already tired of the franchise going in, but the film itself didn’t change my mind. I do still like Smaug, Bilbo and Thorin, if only the story were more focused on the last two characters.

      1. I agree, I think the movie could’ve been really great if it had been a little more focused on its main characters, which was probably my biggest disappointment with this one. But hey, there’s always the inevitable four-hour Director’s Cut for that, haha! 😉

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  14. Believe it or not, this third Hobbit film was my favorite of the three! But I’ll back that up by saying that I went in with very low expectations. Having read the book, the idea of slicing the under 300-page novel into three almost-three hour films a piece just destroyed the entire story for me from the get go. But after I let that go, I tried to enjoyed the films for at least letting me revisit Middle Earth. And the casting and visuals are the best things going for the films! I felt myself consistently bored with the first Hobbit film, that by the time the second one rolled around, I couldn’t even care less. The third one worked more for me, although I’d agree with multiple points you made, particularly the filler romance between Tauriel and Kili, which had me not caring at all what happened to either of them. I also was disappointed to see less of the dwarves, Gandalf, and Bilbo on screen. You’d think for a movie that’s called the Hobbit, that you’d actually see a lot of one, but we don’t really in the movie. Anyways, I could go on and on, but I’m just reminded once again that LOTR trilogy is so epic, that the Hobbit films remain far from ever being close as good.

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