Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Sunday 23 August 2015 by

The Hobbit, The Battle of the Five Armies, Film, Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro

I’d be better off calling this how to go from absurd to farcical in three films. Now don’t get me wrong, I adored The Hobbit as a child – it was the greatest adventure story of all. And the The Lord of the Rings books and films were game-changers for me (and for the world). And when Peter Jackson returned to The Hobbit, I thought it would be the best thing ever. Sadly, I had an inkling that things wouldn’t go so well when they split it in to three films – after all, it’s such a short book.

We’ll brush quickly past the first two films (shaky at best), and look at the last one. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has just arrived on Netflix. It’s the final instalment – the dwarves and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) have awoken Smaug and he’s about to lay waste to Lake-town. So we start where we finished – the town is burning and everyone is trying to get out.

But Bard (Luke Evans) is about to be the hero, and with the help of his son, he kills Smaug in the first five minutes. But this film is two and a half hours long, so we’ve got a while to go yet. It’s been a good few years since I read the book but I’ll be honest, I don’t recall the white orc or the hundreds of armies that appear over the course of the next couple of hours.

But really, that isn’t even my main issue. There’s the whole super-weird love story between the sexy dwarf (Aidan Turner) and random female elf (Evangeline Lilly), the poor attempt at humour (Ryan Gage, who I actually love but seems to fall flat in this role), and then the overexcited use of CGI.

One of the wonderful things about the Lord of the Rings films was their incredible use of CGI and the amazing leaps it made in filmmaking. But now it’s gone overboard – none of the orcs seem to be real, and even the characters have CGI malformations. It’s as if they couldn’t possibly imagine a film to be realistic without it. We only have Jurassic Park to prove that’s not the case. And why CGI the set and the orcs, when it worked so well without in Lord of the Rings? If I’m honest, I’m just baffled by this part.

Evans and Freeman do well to try to uphold the drama. They are strong actors in what are sadly weak roles. There is nothing to anchor them to, and when the elf turned up on the stag and there were giant orcs with helmets for bashing down walls, I was out. The sudden use of random orcs and monsters (since when did Middle Earth have the sandworms from Dune?) made me feel like this was just a bunch of people playing with their special effects rather than trying to get any cohesive, authentic film.

Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro know their stuff – both when it comes to filmmaking and Tolkien. There’s hopeful moments when backstory is including – Angmar and the like – but the tower-top battle with Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman and the Great Eye of Sauron is just beyond excuse. There was no need for it. There were certain parts that felt like they were just throwing together the old team in an attempt to get LOTR fans excited. But they forgot one thing: LOTR fans? They were Hobbit fans too.

Ultimately, there was enough peril and adventure in The Hobbit book without tacking on lots of armies and random orcs. I wish they had left it well alone.

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