As if I haven’t grumbled enough about how preposterously needless Peter Jackson’s undertaking of The Hobbit book into three gratuitously commercialised long-arse movies, the third and final instalment of the franchise The Battle of Five Armies arrives into our collective consciousness only to rear its miserable, ugly head. If there’s anything to be grateful about this, it’s that we should thank Jackson for proving our barely concealed suspicions that this three-part Middle Earth prequel is nothing but an executive, money-driven decision rather than an artistic one – because let’s all face it, a 297-page tome doesn’t need an almost-nine-hour movie trilogy. And here, it shows. The narrative fatigue, the inconsequential character moments, an affectless inter-species romance and a battle sequence beefed up to infinity, making up most of the movie, leading to a lulling, fumbling denouement only served to bridge the gap between this and The Lord of the Rings – arguably a far, far superior adventure story.[divider]+[/divider]
Five super-sized armies clash, thousands die and Middle Earth species have been drawn out to near-extinction and you come out of the movie unaffected is a sign of mediocre filmmaking.[divider]+[/divider]
In An Unexpected Journey, we were given arbitrary dwarven sing-songs and endless dawdling through a New Zealand travel advert. In The Desolation of Smaug, we bore witness to unspeakable number of digressions that you could easily omit if Gandalf the Wizard were wise enough to send those giant goddamn eagles to the posse of dwarves and hobbit on the Lonely Mountain without further ado. Aren’t wizards meant to be wise, or something? And now, in The Battle of Five Armies, we have the mother of all havoc, dispatching not one but five warring fractions (a bit like World War II, but let’s not go into debating which one of the countries Britain, France, Russia, US and Germany fit into the mould of men, dwarves, elves, eagles and orcs, shall we?), which promises, theoretically, a sort-of cinematic battle porn that would make the finale of The Return of the King look like a good sit-down with a quiet game of Warcraft.
But come hither and thither, Jackson delivers by means of a visceral war-cry mood piece that would suitably satisfy anyone with a fetish for hacked-off orc heads and limbs. But if you’re looking for a triumphant, cathartic war movie with the depth and wisdom of Jackson’s previous trilogy capper, look elsewhere because Five Armies has barely any poignancy nor rousing spectacle. Five super-sized armies clash, thousands die and Middle Earth species have been drawn out to near-extinction and you come out of the movie unaffected is a sign of mediocre filmmaking. I’m not condemning Jackson as lazy (anyone who can make six mammoth Tolkien-based films must be dedicated-as-hell) but his storytelling is. It’s lazy, plodding and trifling. Don’t even get started with that bloody battle. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.
Which is a crying shame since its pre-title prologue – a showdown with Smaug the dragon in Lake Town – is astounding and, for the love of cinema, thrilling. Smaug, preening with self-entitlement and haughty importance, was the best character in the second instalment, enlivening an otherwise dull road trip to the Lonely Mountain. In Five Armies, the arch-villain is exterminated even before the actual film begins in what must be the dumbest dragon murder in film history. Question: if you’re an intelligent dragon, would you fly headlong towards someone with a bow on their crosshairs? NO!
Soon, with the absence of Smaug, it’s all left to Richard Armitage’s Dwarven King Thorin and Lee Pace’s Grand Old Snob Elven King Thranduil to duke it out between themselves to the Biggest Cunt of Middle Earth title. Since greed is bad, like a thousand other films would loftily remind us, everyone in the land, including trolls and giant earthworms, idiot species who probably have no idea what’s the worth of gold or what actually gold is in the first place, are out to seize the treasure horde that Smaug has currently vacated. That’s more or less the plot of Five Armies – and also more about Thorin being a real piece of cunt, dare I emphasise, due to some bullshit “dragon sickness”. “Is gold worth your honour?” Bilbo beseeches. What honour, Bilbs? Thorin has dragged you out of peaceful Hobbiton to put your life in real peril, fed you to a dragon to help these gung-ho dwarves to claim their own home, which they should be doing in the first place, and then kicks you out of the place just because you tried to amicably settle a brewing war selfishly provoked by your dear old dickwad-friend Thorin. Where’s the honour in that? And Thranduil, seemingly unsatisfied with all his glorious, pretty wealth with an elven army wearing armour literally carved out of gold, wants a piece of the treasure, too.[divider]+[/divider]
Jackson spends the rest of the film with climactic battles without no real climax, just a prolonged, monotonous slashing of swords, orc-fighting and multi-species genocide.[divider]+[/divider]
Suffice to say, the narrative ends there, as Jackson spends the rest of the film with climactic battles without no real climax, just a prolonged, monotonous slashing of swords, orc-fighting and multi-species genocide. Bilbo, the protagonist of this story, is jettisoned to the side and barely does any fighting. Gandalf, as usual, does the authoritative staff-waving but barely sways any magic. Which means, there should be plenty of room for other characters to shine. Evangeline Lilly’s kick-arse elf-warrior Tauriel should be this series’ Miranda Otto as fierce Eowyn, but largely consigned to a subplot as conventional as any B-grade Hollywood romance, a love story in which Thranduil dismisses with arched eyebrows as “not real”, only to reverse his statement next minute as OMG it actually was real love! Meanwhile, Legolas gets to shine and seems to be the only character effectively killing as much orcs as possible, despite ridden with some dodgy CGI effects, including a mid-air slow-mo running sequence atop falling rocks. Elsewhere, Christopher Lee displays his inner Bruce Lee and Cate Blanchett shows fearsome powers, destabilising Sauron by being Queen Galadriel at the verge of a nervous breakdown. If Galadriel can fight Sauron single-handedly, shouldn’t we have Galadriel lose her shit in the middle of orc army perhaps, hmm?
But no, the eagles arrive and war is declared officially over.
Good bloody riddance.