I have been a casual observer of director Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies since the beginning. And, since the beginning, because I had never read any of the J.R.R. Tolkien books and, quite frankly, had very little interest in the genre (fantasy adventure), I had always gone into the movies with only one question needing to be answered: does this movie entertain me? And, for the most part, because of the size, scope and quality of production on the films, the answer was usually yes. But, emotionally, I have to admit I never connected with either the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the current Hobbit trilogy, which is currently seeing its final installment in the theatres: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. And, unfortunately, for me, a casual fan who had trouble connecting to begin with, this last chapter was the hardest to sit through of them all.
If you don’t believe there is such a thing as too much technology, see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. This film has been polished and digitized so cleanly it makes you want to eat off the screen (especially if you see it in 3D, the way I did). I’ve never seen a live-action movie so crisp. That sounds like a good thing, right? You’d be surprised how uncomfortable it is, though, when the setting of the movie is in Middle Earth, a dirty, filthy place and, yet, you get absolutely no sense that anything is dirty. Everything feels painted on, colored in, digitized and computerized. The CGI in this movie is so realistic and EVERYWHERE—and that’s the exact problem. It’s gotten TOO GOOD. There was a grittiness to the Lord of the Rings films that is lacking here, and I feel it is from the lack of a real setting and real objects. The opening setting, a town, felt like a toy town, everything felt like toys to me. I’m not kidding when I say the only things that felt real to me were the human actors. But give Jackson credit, he knows how to cast a movie.
The one thing that makes The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies bearable is the performances. Everyone from the brilliant Ian McKellan to the delightful Martin Freeman, to the lesser-known Richard Armitage and Aidan Turner, to the brief but awesome moments from Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee, to the bone-chilling voice work of Benedict Cumberbatch to the scene-stealing work by Lee Pace, it’s all first-rate and exceptional. Even Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly, actors who can’t find traction anywhere else in their careers, are spectacular here, which proves Jackson knows how to cast and brings out the best in his actors.
But, sadly, this final installment in The Hobbit trilogy gets too caught up in having to play out the action instead of letting us just spend time with the wonderful performers, and it is 2 hours and 24 minutes of antiseptic, PG-13, CGI-enhanced “battle” scenes that were dull, anti-climactic, non-sensical and seemingly endless. It’s clear from the title what you’re going to get from this movie. The previous two movies in this trilogy were setting up the adventure, then the journey, and now the battle. For me, this battle movie was the biggest let-down of them all, because it lacked any of the charm, personality and intimacy of the previous two and it felt tedious and unemotional.
I realize this is probably the most pointless review I will ever write. Those who love these movies and books will go see the movie no matter what, in fact you probably already have. And for those who haven’t seen any of the movies yet, I doubt you will start now, with the last Tolkien movie director/producer/writer Peter Jackson has said he will ever make. But, on the off-chance anyone is still reading, I will say this: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies did entertain me, as did all of the previous Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. But would I recommend it over anything else currently playing in your local multiplex that’s battling for your attention? Now that’s another question altogether.