Saturday, December 20, 2014

Movie Review: "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies"

Did The Hobbit need to be turned into three movies?  No.  Does The Battle of the Five Armies feel like it's stretched thin?  Yes.  Does that mean it's a bad movie?  No.  What you get with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is exactly what you expect, a big battle between five different armies, while wrapping up the final few chapters of The Hobbit book in a two plus hour movie.

As far as the action goes, this is top notch action moviemaking.  By this point, you like all of the characters, and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins is so good, that you wish there weren't so many subplots going on that he gets a bit of the shaft (it is called The Hobbit afterall).  Of course, the greatest thing that this movie does is that it never lets off the gas.  It's always going somewhere and doesn't feel as if it's spinning its wheels.  While that somewhere is probably another action scene that might have been better served for the eventual extended edition, if you're a fan of Middle Earth you wont care, and that's really all that matters at the end of the day.

If you're a fan of these books and movies, you'll see this movie and you'll enjoy it.  Is it the crown jewel of the franchise?  No, as a matter of fact, from a filmmaking standpoint, it's probably the weakest film of the six Middle Earth movies, but the weakest film in this franchise is still better than the strongest film in most other franchises.  There is a great thematic undercurrent about the destructive power of greed that runs throughout this movie, as all of these different forces are vying for the treasure in the Lonely Mountain, and it's when this theme is in play that many of the strongest scenes occur on an emotional level.

It was really nice to see Peter Jackson work in a little something on the human side of things to keep this from feeling like a two hour brawl, but that's really what he does best.  He finds the humanity in the largeness of his vision, and that's why he's such a great filmmaker.  The only thing I feel like Jackson fumbles is the ending, by trying to tie everything back into The Lord of the Rings, rather than ending happily as the book does.  The Battle of the Five Armies ends kind of mysteriously with suspicion about Bilbo's ring, and that kind of dampens the impact the ending could have had.  While I know that this is a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, the movie might have been better served as a movie had it not tried to foreshadow what's to come and just embraced the sentimental emotion of the farewells between Bilbo, the dwarves, and Gandalf.  That's just my personal feeling, and it's kind of a sour cherry on top of what was a pretty good hot fudge sundae at the movies.

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