The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Alright, so let’s do this. One last time. This review contains spoilers, which I normally wouldn’t worry about since it’s spoiling a book you should have read. But since the movie detours somewhat from the book and most of the stuff I’m talking about in this review is largely unique to and dependent on the movie format … ehh. I’m not going to spoilertext it, but I will at least post up this warning.

This was a pretty fun movie. I don’t know if I’d say special effects and film-making techniques have visibly advanced 13 years since The Fellowship of the Ring, but a lot of that is down to the story and the tone of the movie itself. It was visually nice to watch but not quite as seamless and immersive as the original trilogy in general. This instalment in particular is heavy on the grotesquery and mutilation – not on-screen, but the healed-over evidence of body modification and implantation was much more in-your-face (heh) than the rest of the franchise. I attribute this to Del Toro’s artistic influence in the design of the three Hobbit movies. Ghastly, but enjoyable.

I did have a laugh, picturing Peter Jackson walking onto the special effects lot after whatever went down with the production. Looking around at the weird berserker-orcs, the battering-ram giants (or possibly troll-giant hybrids), the troll with flails for hands and chains sticking out of its eyes, and saying “God damn it, Del Toro.”

Damn it, Del Toro.

“Soon you will find this was all a weird fantasy and Bilbo is actually a little girl being brutalised in Francoist Spain. Surprise!”

Still, I guess he made do with what he had.

It’s been a long time since I read The Hobbit, so I won’t get bogged down in the details of what happened and what shouldn’t have happened. I am fuzzy on the dividing lines between The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, the Appendices, the Lost Tales, and The Silmarillion. I know there was stuff added in here, both worked in from other Tolkien lore – the entire side-story which followed Gandalf and his showdown with pre-Sauron, for example – and other bits that were just entirely made-up. Extra characters, extra relationship weirdness, and so on. The stuff with Legolas, Tauriel, Kíli and all that, for example.

Why are you even here?

“Not sure if talking to Orlando Bloom, or waxwork stunt double.”

I was left with a lot of questions.

Why were there sandworms from Arrakis? Don’t get me wrong, I loved the crossover, but couldn’t they have stayed and just rolled over on top of half of the armies? That would have resolved quite a lot of the enemy’s strangely-amorphous yet fantastically-detailed and tactically-brilliant plan.

Where did the convenient unit of mountain goats come from, allowing Thorin and his buddies to get up onto that strangely-frozen waterfall peak thing and fall into Azog’s[1] cunning “they’ll come to kill me and then get surrounded by an army that is on its way here anyway and will presumably face off against these guys regardless of where they are at the time, and actually this tall icy ruin seems to be a much better place for a small number of defenders to fight off a big army than out there on the field so I don’t know I literally can’t even” plan? Fucking orcs, no idea how to run a campaign. But yeah, I saw no sign of goats until suddenly everyone was on goats.

What?

“Your characters are down on the battlefield. They don’t have the movement left over to get them to the top of an ancient ruin on a mountaintop frozen waterfall formation in the next round.”
“What if they had mountain goats?”
“They’d be killed in the-“
“Armoured battle mountain goats.”
“Well, sure, if they had – ”
“I rolled a 20.”
“*sigh*”

[1] Fun fact, Azog was actually mentioned in The Hobbit, but he was mentioned as a goblin. He did kill Thorin’s grandfather and he was hated by the dwarves, but it was Dáin Ironfoot (Billy Connolly) who killed him in Moria, and he was never really part of the Battle of the Five Armies at all. Bolg, on the other hand, was also in the literature but he was Azog’s son, and he was killed by Beorn. But like I say, not getting bogged (dare I say, bolgged?) down in this.

Actually, there was an awful lot of “where did they suddenly come from so conveniently?” in this movie. And on that topic…

Was it just me, or was there way too much relocation of characters and – sometimes – entire armies in way too short a period of time between way too many interchangeable locations? The people of Laketown took ages to get from the shore to Dale, but then everyone just started bouncing around the countryside like teleporters.

I’m also a little bit concerned that watching all these movies in rapid succession sometime will leave me wondering how the events of The Lord of the Rings unfolded as any sort of surprise or new calamity to the main characters. It all seemed to be unfolding right in front of them here. Galadriel, for example, should probably have had more to say about the events in these movies when the Fellowship showed up in Lothlórien. Not to mention Elrond having nothing much to say about the Ringwraiths chasing his daughter to the front gates of Rivendell, and the whole Council thereafter.

But then one must remember that sixty-odd years had passed.

Still, their knowledge of Angmar, Gandalf’s knowledge of the Ring, even Elrond’s apparent turn-around on helping the mortals … it all seemed a bit strange. And then there was Saruman’s heavily-foreshadowed failure to deal with Sauron. Heck, that entire thing with the palantír seemed to ignore all the stuff they’d done in this prequel trilogy. But I don’t know, maybe it didn’t. Maybe it’s fine.

Legolas going off to meet “Strider”, that was all a bit contrived too. But I suppose for all I know that’s how it actually went.

Yes, there were some issues.

All that being said, some of those creatures were extremely distinctive, and very cool. I’m not sure how practical they were for war, but they were cool. Made for a great fight, great scenery, and fun viewing. Which is really what this was all about – a lot of fun to sit and watch for a couple of hours.

What are they?

“I’ll see your fortifications, armaments, and centuries of careful military training, and raise you … these guys!”
Actually, where were these guys at Helm’s Deep, or Pelennor Fields? They’re the size of mûmakil, are you telling me they were all wiped out?

It’s been fun. The past 13 years, or specifically the few consecutive days we have spent of those 13 years (when you add it all up) watching these movies, have been fun. I am looking forward to watching them all with my girls. And – of course – reading them the books for the first time. And that’s the important thing. This is a cultural legacy, a nice little bit of entertainment and a tribute to a wonderful story.

And it’s fun.

And it’s over.

Bring on the next blockbuster!

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11 Responses to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

  1. stchucky says:

    I also should have added a note that all Legolas’s crazy stunts in the “Lord of the Rings” movies were a sad mid-life-crisis attempt to recreate the brilliant moves he pulled off as a youngster, but which nobody ever saw him pull off.

    • I feel that if Legolas had been toned down a notch, this movie would have been better. Not great, but better.
      Cutting everything about Dol Guldur and especially that weird Galadriel bit would have helped even more.

      • stchucky says:

        Yeah, Galadriel going photoneg when she’s mad struck me as weird the first time. Seeing that she apparently does it regularly was off-putting.

        And are you kidding? Legolas needed to be even more radical. Also they need to retcon the original trilogy and add in a scene where he meets Gimli in Rivendell and tells him “LOL, I met your dad and he showed me a picture of you and I thought you were a mutant. Good times.”

  2. aaronthepatriot says:

    I have been spoiled thoroughly and I love it! Thanks for this, man. Now I can wait for the DVD!

  3. BRKN says:

    I wish you had taken my fangirl wife with you. Now I will have to sit through this atrocity.

  4. dreameling says:

    Finally saw this and… meh. It was fun, sure, but the “pure escapist fun and story world immersion” angle didn’t seem to carry over from part 2, which I quite liked [1]. This one was just kinda flat — except for the Laketown opening (best scene in the movie), the superhero action in Dol Guldur (man, that was some high-level spellcasting shit), and the character bits with Freeman (Bilbo) and Armitage (Thorin). The battle itself was, well, some of it just didn’t quite click (I agree with your logic and logistics nitpicks), and a lot of it was just so been-there-done-that. And too much goddamn plastic CGI and toy physics.

    [1] Actually just watched the extended edition BD, and it was still a lot of fun with plenty of Middle-earth magic to enjoy.

    So, yeah, it was kinda ok. But nothing more.

    • stchucky says:

      I thought it was good enough, but a lot’s happened in 13 years and the film-making hasn’t seemed to keep up with that. Don’t know. Expectation issues, as well.

  5. stchucky says:

    It is also worth commenting on the fact that, now I am reading The Hobbit to Wump, there were Were-Worms mentioned in it and there was quite a bit about Thorin’s dad and the Necromancer. So it all checks out.

    Also, Bilbo and the Dwarves got caught by the Trolls because the Troll had a talking wallet and Bilbo tried to pickpocket him. So yeah, let’s not bitch too much about Jackson changing the stories and butchering perfection.

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