I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Peter Jackson‘s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I put it at #2 on my Best of the Decade (2000-2009) list and the next time I revisit it, it might just make its way on my all-time Top Ten. And yet, when “An Unexpected Journey”, the first episode of Jackson’s “The Hobbit” prequel trilogy, came out in 2012, I didn’t even go see it for various reasons (so-so trailer, bad reviews, rough year on a personal level). I also skipped “The Desolation of Smaug” in theaters last year and it’s only this month, a week and change before the release of “The Battle of the Five Armies”, that I caught up to them. And to be honest, I can’t say I regretted not seeing them until then. The first “Hobbit” is particularly disappointing and the second one is only marginally better. Still, I figured I should give a chance to the third and last one, and on the big screen this time.
The good news: “The Battle of the Armies” is certainly the best film in the “Hobbit” trilogy. The bad news: it’s nevertheless nowhere near as great as any of the “Lord of the Rings” films.
Now, Peter Jackson is still capable of orchestrating awesome action sequences, starting with the opening dragon attack, a fiery set piece that feels like Middle-Earth’s 9/11. But these “Hobbit” movies lack the heart and soul of “The Lord of the Rings”. I loved everyone in that trilogy’s main cast of characters, from Frodo and Samwise to Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas and all the others. Yet I couldn’t care less about anyone here.
Not Bilbo (Martin Freeman), who barely qualifies as a protagonist, spending “The Battle of the Armies” running around doing things that are ultimately inconsequential. Not his countless goofy-looking dwarf companions led by the tiresomely grim Thorin (Richard Armitage). Not the tight-assed elves led by Thranduil (Lee Pace). Not even Legolas (Orlando Bloom), who’s kind of a dick in these flicks, brooding over Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), who’d much rather get it on with one of the dwarves, Kili (Aidan Turner). And not Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Saruman (Christopher Lee) either, since their one big scene is devoted to some prequel bullshit, setting up things that will only happen 60 years later.
And yet, like I said, this still manages to be the best “Hobbit” film, mainly because there are less dull parts ridiculously stretching out J.R.R. Tolkien’s original children’s book and more epic action. The titular battle, which involves dwarves, elves, men, orcs and eagles (they’re the fifth army, right?), takes up most of the movie’s running time and is quite relentless.
If only for all that technically impressive spectacle, I would recommend seeing “The Battle of the Five Armies”… But don’t expect to be deeply moved like when you saw “The Return of the King”, the Oscar-winning conclusion of the first trilogy.