Saturday, January 3, 2015

Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
And so ends Peter Jackson's prequel trilogy to his acclaimed "Lord of the Rings" films, not with a bang, but with a... well, a series of bangs. Those hoping that this third "Hobbit" film might rise above the just-decent-enoughness of the first in the trilogy and the mediocrity of the second will likely be disappointed that "The Battle of the Five Armies," ultimately, doesn't add up to much more than the two films preceding it.

It's not a bad film, but much like the other two "Hobbit" films, a little unnecessary. The picture is filled to the brim with special effects and battles, fiery speeches, characters making sacrifices and individuals constantly being referred to as (Blank), son of (Blank). Those who go into the film knowing exactly what to expect might enjoy the experience, while others might find it a bit of a slog.

Jackson's original trilogy was visually stunning and thematically resonant, whereas this prequel trilogy feels overly abundant in special effects-driven set pieces and slightly muddled, thematically and narratively.

J.R.R. Tolkien's novel, "The Hobbit," which has been split up into three movies by Jackson and company, had a fair amount of humor, mostly due to Bilbo Baggins' (Martin Freeman) easygoing nature and lively spirit. Jackson's films are deathly serious and Bilbo, despite being the lead character, often gets relegated to the background, while in the foreground battles continually rage.

This film begins where the last one left off - with the dragon Smaug attacking Laketown, leaving Bard (Luke Evans) to battle him. Meanwhile, the dwarves and Bilbo have ascended the Lonely Mountain, where Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) has taken his place as king and become a bit of a tyrant, due to the allure of the mountain's treasure.

Bilbo is left to make a decision to prevent a war between the dwarves and elves over the mountain's treasure, but since we know this will be averted, there's also the looming threat of an attack by the orcs as well as a peculiar battle involving Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman (Christopher Lee), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) with some evil spirits that seemingly has no place in the proceedings.

The film's narrative merely serves to act as a prelude to the already seen "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, much as George Lucas' second "Star Wars" series set up the original three films. That being said, the special effects are impressive and the film has a few solid set pieces, including one in which Thorin battles the commander of the orcs on the ice. But all in all, "The Battle of the Five Armies" feels a bit more obligatory than inspired.

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