So now it ends, at least until Peter Jackson manages to convince the Tolkien estate to give him the rights to make a trilogy of movies focusing on Smaug as a student in college. With The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, Jackson concludes his trilogy of movies based on The Hobbit, and I must say I’ve found both of the previous films enjoyable, particularly The Desolation of Smaug. Alas, this one is easily the weakest Hobbit film, a middling affair spiced up by one or two good performances and some nice action moments.
As this final Hobbit movie concludes, a plot thread from the first two movies is wrapped up in abrupt fashion that sorta reduces the tension of the past films, but whatever. The movie soon moves forward with the plot’s central conflict; the dwarves have reclaimed the mountain of gold, but everyone in Middle-Earth wants some of it. Bard The Bowman (Luke Evans) wants to use it to help Laketown residents, while Orcs want the mountain for strategic purposes.
This conflict of interests soon leads to that titular battle between several different armies. Here’s the problem; few of the participants of the battle have any depth or even personality. None of the dwarves (aside from Bombur and his barrel attacks) have left an impression, while Bard The Bowman is bland with a capital B. The film focuses on him for a good chunk of the running time, before abandoning him altogether, the kind of sloppy writing that plagues many of the characters in the film, leaving them as little more than just set pieces in the climactic duel.
This approach to the film, which pretty much involves tossing everything and anything at the screen and seeing what works, allows for a dreadfully dull love triangle between Legloas, Tauriel and a dwarf, as well as bizarrely extended screentime for Alfred, a side character who had maybe five lines in the last film. He’s given an aggravatingly large amount of screentime here, all for I assume the purpose of stretching this thing to over two hours.
Thorin Oakenshield is another character given prominent focus that the film doesn’t do much with; I like the idea that the greed surrounding all of the gold within the mountain would drive him mad, but his covetous ways were solved in an instant and have no bearing on the film itself. At least that hobbit that lived in a hole in the ground, Bilbo Baggins, is still enjoyable here. Martin Freeman’s performance is easily the best part of this franchise, and his amiable everyday demeanor is a pleasure to watch. Him and Ian McKellen as Gandalf are the only two characters to have any sort of depth, and considering how many people corp up in the ensemble cast, that makes getting through the movie a chore at numerous points.
Still, at least the movie has the courtesy to come up with some fun action moments. The dichotomy between some action moments being more realistic while others are stylized can get irritating, but there’s no denying that Jackson knows how to stage some moments of grandeur. However, even moments that should convey jaw-dropping awe become dull thanks to distractedly bad CGI that runs rampant in the feature. Seriously, how do these goblins and Elks look like characters from a Playstation 2 game? It’s abysmal, especially considering how much of the film relies on CGI to create villains, like the Orc baddies Azog and Metalface (that’s not really his name). Even after three movies, nearly eight hours, spent with this creature, I have no damn idea who or what Azog is except that he looks like a play-doh version of Kratos. This makes him perhaps the best example of The Hobbit: The Battles Of The Five Armies problem of having simultaneously too much and too little going on.