SNAPSHOT REVIEW: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies by Peter Jackson

Friday , 26, December 2014 6 Comments

Much of the criticism directed towards The Hobbit trilogy revolves around the films’ faithfulness to the source material; the irony of the concluding chapter is that Jackson and company aren’t even faithful to their own narrative inventions; the film might more properly be called “Battle of the Unresolved Plot Threads”. The various set-ups, given so much emphasis and screen time in the previous two chapters, are dropped off into the cliffs of insanity like so many of the orcs in the film. As just one example, the entirety of the invented lore surrounding the Arkenstone, from its corrupting influence to its value as a symbol to unite the various dwarven kingdoms, goes absolutely nowhere. Thorin goes mad from the cursed gold and the “dragon sickness” instead, and the Iron Mountain dwarves show up on cue because that’s what happens in the book! As far as I recall we do not even see who ends up with the Arkenstone.

Jackson’s worst impulses as a filmmaker, which are present to a lesser degree in his Lord of the Rings and to a greater degree in King Kong, are unleashed here. His propensity for improbable physics-defying action doesn’t so much strain credibility as it does pound it into oblivion. If you thought Legolas skateboarding down the steps of Helm’s Deep was silly, just wait until you see him driving a troll using an arrow in its brain as a wheel.

Preposterous, incoherent, and – with the exception of Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo –ultimately uninvolving, Battle of the Five Armies at least has the courtesy to take a new generation of fans not only there, but back again, to the books, where they will always and forever remain as they are.

6 Comments
  • Daniel says:

    The movies set up an expectation of hormonal resolution: the girl warrior, torn between a hobbity dwarf and a thick-necked floating Legolas would finally have the painful decision decided for her by fate.

    You knew she wasn’t getting Legolas from the start: she’s not in the Lord of the Rings movies. So, the rails are set for dwarfy, but even if you don’t remember which of the original company die in the Battle, you can guess that it is gonna be him, because none of the other dwarves have established anything (in two movies!) much beyond their quirks.

    The Arkenstone is beyond stupid: is Thorin obsessed with it because of Dragon ADHD or whatever? Or is he (as alluded to earlier) obsessed with it because it is symbolic of his father’s insanity and he is committed to overcoming it?

    Turns out neither. It is a friendship rock.

    With Thorin, Princess Leia Elf, Hobbito the Dwarf, Legolas and the Transvestite Butler Guy struggling with all those feelings it was going to be pretty difficult to resolve the children’s book.

    • Scooter says:

      The love triangle acted as a thematic counterpoint to Thranduil/Thorin’s lack of mercy and racial hatred, but of course the tragedy of her dwarf lover’s death was meaningless: his death did not bury the strife, it served no purpose other than to show how much Evangeline Lily has feelings.

      My understanding from the previous two films was that Thorin needed the Arkenstone in order to be recognized as King and help defeat Smaug. Both happened without it. Thorin’s madness has at least three suggested origins in the film: his bloodline, dragon sickness/the cursed gold, and the Arkenstone. The latter was actually set-up as important, and jettisoned for an abrupt mixture of the first two. Jackson favored these complex explanations over something more human and understandable: simple greed. Both his descent into and ascent out of madness are sudden and jarring.

      Then, out of left field, Legolas has mommy issues. Meanwhile, out in right field, the elf formerly known as Galadriel becomes a blue bitch crazy demon creature.

      And I didn’t even mention the were-worms. Jumping the shark and nuking the fridge now have a new member in their idiomatic company.

      • Daniel says:

        Oh yeah, the tunnel worm things. Totally forgot about them. Not only were they unintentionally hilarious (seriously, the theater I was in laughed a lot during the movie, usually when laughter wasn’t intended.) but they, too were unnecessary. The movie had such a random sense of scale that it was just better when the armies start showing up out of the blue.

        I did not understand at any point during the movie that there were two separate armies of orc and that the timing of their arrival was in any way significant. It was only when it instantly dawned on the audience that an elaborate trap for Thorin had been laid (I believe this occurred when the head bad guy orc mentioned to the audience that a big elaborate trap had been laid, or else when one of the dwarves mentioned that a big elaborate trap had been laid upon them) that I finally said, “Oh, I think that’s why they have those expressworm thingies. One of the orc groups had to get there faster than the other, and Sauron refused to use his teleporting magic…for some reason.”

        I had a glimmer of hope that the battle might just hinge on the supergoat riders making it to the orc signalling thing, and the dwarves would be clever enough to mix up the signals from things like “Attack now” and “rush the city” to unhelpful commands like “flee” and “orgy.”

        It was also nice to see that the transvestite butler learned the error of his ways and made off like a bandit…well, more specifically, as a bandit. He was set up the entire movie as a despicable creature worthy of death by torture, so it was nice to see that he got the gold in the end and lived happily ever after.

        At least when Lucas nuked the fridge, he didn’t do a trilogy.

        • Scooter says:

          You weren’t alone in missing the arrival or significance of the second orc army. My friend left the theater and facetiously said he wanted one-fifth of his money back since he only counted four armies.

          As for the were-worms, I was too flabbergasted to laugh. The theater I was in just sat there in stunned silence.

          And having seen the writhing grotesquerie of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive I’m very happy the supergoat riders didn’t change the signal to “orgy”.

  • Daniel says:

    On the other hand, the blind cave troll quadruple amputee with tinker toy prosthetics was nicely understated.

  • Scotty Henderson says:

    Great, you all echoed remarks I made in Facebook. The 5th army consisted of the giant eagles – and as I commented it didn’t really feel like an army, anymore than the burrowing worms were part of the Orc army. Considering the amount of time spent on going to Gundabad to check out the 2nd Orc army, we saw a massive battalion of Orcs – where where these when they got to Erebor? We saw a few non-armoured Orcs scaling over the towers where the 2 Elven and 2 Gimli brothers battles, but never really saw the armoured divisions arrive in front of Erebor to reinforce the other Orcs. This seeming lack of continuity sucked as it was so obvious.
    Yeah, the Arkenstone fizzled, became a non-issue. It’s almost as if Jackson just wanted to get it over with. The performances of the main characters were good, at least, but the critics are going to pull this apart methinks!

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