Spoiler warnings on!
Over the weekend, I was able to get out to the theater and see the end of the Hobbit trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies.
I both love and hate this movie.
Let’s start with the love then I’ll let the hate flow.
The parts that I loved about this movie are the beginning and the end for the most part. The opening of the movie picks up where the last movie left off. We get to see Smaug laying waste to lake town. The Master of the city is absconding with the town’s wealth and Kili and Tauriel are leading the rag-tag band of stragglers out of the city. Having read the book, I was aware of the players who make it out of this situation alive. The drama was that I was vested in the relationship between Tauriel and Kili and wondered if this is might be the point that their relationship would change. We also get to have an excellent monologue by Smaug as he prepares to go in for the kill on Bard. Despite knowing what is coming, it was still a powerful scene that I loved seeing on the big screen.
This leads us to the sorrowful departure of Kili from Tauriel. When he asks her to join him and journey to Erebor, I was a bit misty-eyed. to quote the bard, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” These two are our doomed lovers in this film and it works so well for me.
The end of the movie provides the pay off that I want. Getting to watch Thorin return to the hero that we get to see in the other movies is a delight. Armitage’s strong suit is the noble hero and is something that is severely lacking until the end of the movie. The final battle with Azog is suitably dramatic and provides the second most heart-wrenching scene of the movie for me. As Thorin lay dying, he apologizes to Bilbo for how he treated him. He shares that he was lucky to have such a friend. The connection between the two characters is just so palpable and genuine. It just sweeps you up into the feelings of sorrow and loss. The first most heart-wrenching scene though goes to the death of Kili. He struggles with the Orc that is fighting Tauriel only to be killed right before her eyes. Tears…just tears. the death of Fili that begins the Shakespearean death spiral is the third most heart-wrenching moment of the movie for me. The tears start there and just roll for a bit.
Out side of these parts of the movie, the other thing I love about this movie is Lee Pace as Thranduil. Pace gives an excellent performance, as always. In this last part of the Hobbit, Thranduil gets a transformational ending. I am loath to say redemption as he is not a changed elf at the end. He has seen the fruits of his labor and finds them distasteful. He has not the will to apologize for what has happened but extends some modicum of recompense to those whom he has hurt. The end scene between he and Tauriel is just wonderful. Earlier in the movie her called her love for Kili false. When he comes across her tending to the body of Kili, She cries out that she wants to know why it hurts so much? His answer, “Because it was real.” Damn powerful stuff.
Now, let the hate flow.
Fuck! The middle of this movie was such boring crap. The journey of Thorin into the madness of the dragon’s hoard just comes across as so much melodrama. Instead of becoming mad with avarice and paranoia, Thorin just comes across as stoned. the time invested in watching this transformation occur could have been easily left on the cutting room floor and the movie would have been no worse off.
It also comes across as if strong female characters aren’t allowed in the Hobbit. We are given two scenes where major female characters have the opportunity to be the hero of the scene. The first is when Galadriel comes to the rescue of Gandalf. She easily dispatches a lone orc and begins to care the unconscious body of Gandalf out of the ruins. The ring wraiths descend upon her and she is unable to go any further. She rest upon a slightly raised dais awaiting the assault when Saruman and Elrond come to her defense. The fight is entertaining but when seems out of place when she is capable of banishing the necromancer to end the fight. It would have made more sense if she had just came in and kicked ass and took names instead of having to be rescued. This same scene repeats itself with Tauriel. She is fighting to save Kili and fails. She witnesses his murder and then is almost killed herself by the same orc. It falls to Legolas to come to her aid and avenge her murdered love. It just falls flat and makes me so angry. Tauriel is in a position to easily avenger Kili, but instead she must become the damsel in distress.
The battle itself is lackluster. We have seen this epic battle before. It feels stale and trite and leaves me wondering why I was excited to see this fight at all.
The thing I hated most about the movie was Alfrid, the master of Lake town’s second-in-command. Here is a sycophant that makes it through the entire movie because everyone that sees him takes leave of their senses and thinks it is a wonderful idea to have him around. He is a known factor to everyone in the town as a a lackey for the person with the most money and power. Despite this fact Bard and Gandalf entrust him with the things that they hold dear. Alfrid is definitely played for humor throughout despite the fact that the need for a comedic relief is not necessary most of the time. He could have been redeemed if they showed him changing his name to wormtongue and heading for the lands of the horse lords but even this thread is left fallow.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies could have been a great movie. Peter Jackson went hog wild with the effects and the addition of his favorite characters. It could have used someone there to point out that when he should have left well-enough alone and when he should have pulled out all the stops. If you have time, see this movie as a matinee. It is well worth seeing on the big screen but 3-D, high frame rate, and night rates are not worth the money when seeing this movie.