This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Travis McClain’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I had little interest in this trilogy at all, but on Boxing Day 2012, I found The Shining on Blu-ray for $7.88 with $7.50 Movie Cash to see An Unexpected Journey so I took the plunge and found it delightful. Last December, I won some theater gift cards at a trivia night fundraiser event and that paid my way into The Desolation of Smaug - which I found wholly tedious and bleak, and not at all enjoyable or even interesting. I tried to find some way of getting out of paying out of pocket directly to see The Battle of Five Armies, but failed so I went with the next best thing: seeing it on Discount Tuesday for only $5.50 - a quarter less than even the Early Bird matinee price!
On the whole, I quite liked this one. Its brisk pace guards against lingering anywhere too long, which was a deficiency of its predecessor. There was more humor this time, too; not as pervasive as in the first film, but enough to give it a personality - and a likable one, at that. And there are some wonderful moments throughout; I got a kick out of seeing Sauruman in action, for instance.
There are some glaring flaws, though. It's just ridiculous to watch our protagonists fell whole swaths of Orcs while rarely even being hit at all themselves. (Bilbo dropping goblins by chucking rocks at their heads? Seriously?) It was about like watching Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin taking on half a dozen henchmen, each of their hay-makers knocking down several baddies at once.
Some of the action moments are outright ridiculous, to the point that they took me out of the movie. The perfect microcosm is Legolas actually running up a set of stairs created by falling bricks. Conceptually, it's not all that bad of an idea. The problem is that Peter Jackson seems to have not trusted us to catch the moment and so instead of cutting it quickly so that when it's over we gawk, "Holy damn! Did you see that?!", the film stops to admire itself and shouts at us, "HEY! LOOK AT THIS!" It oversells the moment, and in the process ruins the effect.
The obvious comparison/contrast to draw is with Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, as the other prolific concluding chapter of a prequel trilogy. Overall, The Battle of the Five Armies does a better job balancing concluding its trilogy and teasing/introducing things from the movies that we've already seen that take place later. Unlike Revenge of the Sith, there's no major event to be established here to explain the foundation of the other half of this series. The Battle of the Five Armies gets to focus more on paying off than setting up.
If anything, the narrative gets into some trouble when it's too mindful of its place in the franchise. Take, for instance, Galadriel and Sauroman rescuing Gandalf. Sauroman insists at the end of that scene that Sauron is of no concern and to leave that to him. I get what it has to do with The Lord of the Rings, but what does it have to do with The Hobbit? Not much, and in the context of this trilogy alone, it's a really baffling way to leave that plot line.
(Tolkien purists balk at the invented scene even existing at all, but I'm merely a casual viewer of the movies and seeing Sauroman in action was a highlight for me.)
I was greatly disappointed to find that Smaug is defeated in the few minutes between The Hobbit title and The Battle of the Five Armies subtitle appearing on-screen. When we left the last movie, we all knew that the kid was going to bring his dad a black arrow to bring down Smaug. I kind of figured that since that movie ended before we got to that, that it portended we'd spend Act I here with that. Nope. Over and done in just a few minutes, so why not just give us that finale in the last movie? Opening this one with the immediate aftermath rather than with the action sequence would have been fine. It made me retroactively dislike The Desolation of Smaug even more than I already did.
Last complaint: the deus ex machina of the eagles? UGH. Firstly, I have a low threshold for deus ex machina devices in general anyway. But more than that, it felt as though Jackson shifted his attention from the war to the side mission with Thorin, Bilbo, Tauriel, et al...and forgot he had to conclude the war he'd started elsewhere. Are the eagles in the original novel? I have no idea, and I'm not even all that interested to find out.
Speaking of finding out things, just how the hell did any of the combatants find out that their respective leaders had killed one another? Thorin's purpose in going after the Orc leader was to hasten the end of the battle; but if none of the Orcs are even there to witness their leader's death, and no one tells them about it, how does killing their leader help anyone beat them? Is it because their leader was the one coordinating their attack and without him they're too stupid to successfully organize? I'm willing to buy that, but someone in the movie should have said that was the reasoning.
My annoyances may make it sound as though I was thoroughly frustrated and disappointed with the movie, but I honestly did enjoy it overall. Though most of the Dwarves become little more than background characters here, their camaraderie is still an important element of the story and that's endearing. The relationship between Bilbo and Thorin is especially well handled. It's easy to relate to the matter of one friend sitting on top of something they're reluctant to share with or give to another friend; I think we've all been on both sides of that dilemma at one time or another. I certainly have been.
I smiled outwardly and cheered inwardly throughout the movie at various moments, and having that provoked is all I can ask of a movie like this. And I'll add this: After seeing The Lord of the Rings movies, which I liked, I had no desire to go and read Tolkien's novels. I am, however, now considering making a point to read The Hobbit.
How The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Entered My Flickchart
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies > Jurassic Park III → #837
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies > Electric Earthquake → #419
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies < Groundhog Day → #419
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies < Gangs of New York → #419
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies < Trees Lounge → #419
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies < American Splendor → #419
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies > The Woman in Green → #404
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies < Wesley Wills's Joy Rides → #404
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies > Friday → #400
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies > Reservoir Dogs → #399
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies < Wesley Willis's Joy Rides → #399
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies entered my Flickchart at #399/1673