The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
Here we are at last, at the end of all things! What was originally envisioned as a two-part film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit finally finishes as another trilogy despite the fact that unlike Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, this novel certainly wasn’t vast enough to warrant three films & would’ve comfortably sufficed as a single feature. The mistake became pretty much clear when the first instalment premiered on the silver screen amidst enormous hype & was criticised by many for its bloated narrative. For me however, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was still an unexpectedly impressive commencement of The Hobbit film series for it closely followed the events of the book, kept the changes within the realms of Tolkien’s spirit & was a very satisfying experience on an overall scale in spite of its obvious shortcomings & other inconsistencies.
An Unexpected Journey kind of made me believe that director Peter Jackson might just be able to pull off this latest Middle-Earth adventure, on a satisfactory note at least if not on the same groundbreaking scale as The Lord of the Rings. But never did I imagine the series to take such a drastic turn & end up making a complete mockery of itself for it only went downhill in the following chapters. The journey downward began with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug which didn’t just mark a significant departure from what so far had been a very faithful adaptation of its source material but also ended up slaughtering the novel in a manner that was plainly insulting to Tolkien for this middle chapter was heavily padded with unnecessary fillers from start to finish & added more insult to injury by abruptly ending at one of cinema’s most frustrating cliffhangers.
And so after a wait of another year, we finally come to the third & final instalment of The Hobbit film series which made its way into cinemas less than a week ago. Thanks to its predecessor, my expectation from this chapter was already low yet the least I wanted from the finale was a satisfying closure to the whole series but what this second sequel provided instead is a terribly written & horribly executed premise once again bloated to epic proportions which, apart from confirming the notion that inflating this single-film story into three features was indeed a stupid move by the filmmakers, also brings the Middle-Earth franchise to its all-time low considering that there is not a single aspect in the film which works out in its favour plus the excessive amount of CGI present in its overly stretched combat sequences leave behind nothing but a very numb feeling.
Replacing the opening title theme with a different tone & even discarding the prologue sequence which so far had been the tradition of this franchise, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies begins with what should’ve been the ending of The Desolation of Smaug but wraps up the fiery wrath of the magnificent beast even before the film’s subtitle appears on the screen. The plot then follows Bilbo Baggins & the Company of Dwarves who after reclaiming their homeland witness their leader, Thorin, succumb to ‘dragon sickness’ for he desperately searches for the Arkenstone, backs away from his promise to share the treasure & even chooses war over peace against both elves & men. But when a greater threat arrives at the Lonely Mountain, the races of dwarves, elves & men must soon make a choice to either unite against the common enemy or be destroyed.
Helmed by director Peter Jackson for one last time, the final instalment of The Hobbit film series is also its weakest as the once-visionary filmmaker completely abandons all the core elements of storytelling and relies solely on its eye-popping visuals & CGI-laden battles to push the narrative forward, which is just the tip of the iceberg concerning what’s wrong with it. The first setback occurs within minutes into the movie when it gets rid of the prime antagonist of the last chapter which really makes me wonder just why this small segment wasn’t used in the preceding instalment if it was supposed to be this brief. Another major letdown comes from its screenplay for the writers have padded it with needless fillers while the remaining content of the book is either presented in an overly exaggerated fashion or discarded in its entirety.
Coming to the performances, it’s only Martin Freeman & Ian McKellen as Bilbo Baggins & Gandalf the Grey, respectively, who leave any sort of impression but then, neither of them have enough screentime in the finished product. The biggest disappointment comes from Richard Armitage who played Thorin Oakenshiled so well in the last two chapters yet here he is completely clueless for the most part & chips in with a hammy rendition of his character. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) & Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) remain as useless as they were the last time plus their absurd love triangle subplot with Kili (Aiden Turner) once again makes its presence felt. Lee Pace improves a little as Thranduil, Luke Evans is also fine as Bard the Bowman while Ryan Gage as Alfrid; the sly servant of the Master of Laketown, delivers the absolute worst performance of the entire series.
The only compensation comes from a few perfectly choreographed moments in the battle sequences & Howard Shore’s background score, which is without a doubt the only aspect that remained consistently great throughout the series. The supporting characters are so poorly handled by the writers that even after three films, many won’t be able to recall the correct names of all the dwarves or what exactly was their purpose on this quest. Three films in the last three years, adapted from a novel that’s just 300-350 pages long, yet totalling a runtime of over eight hours & filmed on a budget of $750 million and still, neither the cinematic experience nor the quality of its production comes even marginally close to what The Lord of the Rings accomplished, not to mention its budget which was just one-third in comparison to this latest trilogy in the Middle-Earth franchise.
On an overall scale, the third & final instalment of The Hobbit film series is far from the fitting conclusion to the Middle-Earth saga & is a disappointment in every sense of the word. Its half-assed attempt in capturing the corrupting power of greed turns out to be pretty ironic considering that the very existence of this third chapter is a result of greed on the part of its creators. And despite its 144 minutes of runtime, it fails to do justice to what is actually only one chapter in the novel. Needlessly stretched, abysmally directed, incompetently written, tediously edited, overly padded with excessive CGI & featuring few cringeworthy performances, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a very dull blend of everything which was wrong with its predecessors but the most basic aspect where this instalment or The Hobbit trilogy as a whole fails is exactly where The Lord of the Rings triumphed gloriously; its loyalty to J.R.R. Tolkien.