The Hobbit : The Battle Of The Five Armies – A review

A review, of sorts. Of a film, of sorts…

I write this disappointed, having come from Vue in Eastleigh this afternoon feeling somehow glad that I used Nectar vouchers to  pay the admission price, rather than actual pieces of gold. It’s frustrating that I should feel let down by this film, because I am and always have been a fan of Tolkien and latterly Peter Jackson whose work on The Lord Of The Rings brings effectively to life a lot of the scenes, relationships, images and strategies that have developed in my head after reading the books about every five years.

It’s time I read them again, to be honest.

And I am currently half way through The Hobbit, slightly sceptical of the film’s chances of success before I even watched it given that 20 pages of narrative are stretched out over 150 minutes of film…

But this is the film, not the book. I recognise the different media, the possibilities, the expectations etc and I have been stunned, impressed, blown away and generally very excited over the five films to date.

The first twenty minutes are breath-taking and dramatic as Smaug unleashes his vengeance on Laketown and is ultimately destroyed by Bard the Bowman. It’s not in the same league as the superb opening sequence of The Two Towers when Frodo and Samwise are unwittingly pursued by Gollum, but the dragon animation is genuinely brilliant and chilling.
But once Bard unleashes the black arrow , the beast – and sadly I fear the rest of film – is doomed to the Curse of the Old Hat.

Some of the introductions from olde Unfinished Tales into this film are interesting and bring a new dimension (such as Bard’s family, Galadriel’s rescue of the imprisoned Gandalf and Thorin’s reflective dream and subsequent change of heart) but I didn’t think any of them was really given enough time to develop and fulfill any kind of promise. To that end, the film could comfortably have been even longer. It felt rushed at times – the battle scenes perhaps unnecessarily long in some places and short in others.

What, for instance, happened to the thousands of Orcs coming from The North, threatening Thorin, Filli and Killi when they head up to attack Azog and Borg? They didn’t appear – or were they taken out by the eagles? Oh, the eagles. “The Eagles Are Coming” which makes everything alright. Never mind how…

Bard’s family are good and influential, developing him as a passionate family man. That bit works and was a Good Idea. I was touched by the relationship with his son.
But Cate Blanchett’s reprise of Galadrril, while welcome and well written in, is just a  bit ‘corny’ I felt. And to be honest, I don’t really like the effects used when she turns all Wicked Witchy and casts the scary spell that banishes Sauron back to ‘the east’ – but I made the same criticism of that in the LOTR trilogy.
I’ve got a green and white filter, and I’m gonna use it.
Hammer Horror – I don’t know,
Is this the right thing to do?

Then there’s Thorin’s dream in his stronghold under the Mountain. That fails after about 30 seconds… I was also a little bemused by the discussion that took place between Dwalin and Thorin – when did Dwalin become Thorin’s second in command? A good idea, and it could have been given more time and space which would have made this scene less incongruous. As a general commentary on all three films, I really think more character developments and insight into the relationships of the fellowship of the dwarves would have been welcome.

I think the less said about Tauriel’s relationship with Killi the better. Distinctly un-Tolkein I thought, unless it exists as a vehicle to introduce a forging of the bonds between Elves and Dwarves upon which the future of Middle Earth depends. But I don’t recall that form the subsequent three films. Just no, then really. A concession perhaps to the funding of MGM? Superfluité abominable.

Rant almost over – I don’t like Jackson’s treatment of endings. I know this isn’t an ‘end’ as such. Perhaps that is another factor in its lack of conviction. Therein lie my disappointments.

Skip to the good bits and have it done in 90 minutes. There are plenty of those – Bard is a good watch, and I enjoyed every scene with Alfrid in, despite his ridiculousness. The elves of course elevate the film and add grandeur and a sinister elegance. The giant elk mount of Thranduil is inspired. Despite the character’s relative wooden acting, his role is a clever narrative technique. Bilbo’s relationship with Gandalf is touching if almost incidental and the Hobbit hole at Bag End is of course as charming and perfect as ever. Bolg and Azog are great – the epitome of Jackson’s evil orc lords, and even Billy Connolly’s cameo as Dwarf-lord Dain worked despite my reservations.

Initially, I came out of the theatre with a 7 out of 10, but on reflection its down to a 6.

Shame really – I was expecting better things.

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