The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is surprisingly competent in its pacing and successfully avoids the missteps of the second movie. While the movie is essentially one long action sequence, Jackson effectively turns the movie in to a series of action vignettes, each with their own escalation, climax, and relief. This results in no single action sequence overstaying its welcome and a movie which was elevated above my admittedly low expectations.
The Hobbit still has its share of problems. Some of the editing is jarring, especially within the first hour which covers the remainder of the content actually found in the book. There are a few questionable plot contrivances which left me scratching my head, including several attempts at jokes that fell completely flat. Yet over all it was not the terminal boredom inducing nightmare I had feared it would be.
A big part of the success of this movie beyond the competent pacing was the lack of any major character introductions. The movie spends most of its time ushering existing characters to their on screen finale. This gives the movie a tighter focus than the previous entries which all made a point of making ponderous character introductions or introductions that differ from the book, which often left this reader puzzled.
One surprising success of the movie was a character addition I initially took offense to. Thorin’s nemesis, Azog the Defiler, seemed like a completely unnecessary addition which did nothing to escalate the danger the company faced and seemed like a meaningless contrivance to “humanize” the goblin hordes by adding a recognizable personality to them. The addition of Azog is redeemed at his parting by achieving what the character had failed to do thus far. It took three movies, but Azog finally develops in to a competent villain whose inclusion felt necessary instead of contrived.
Other character additions come to varying degrees of success in their on screen ends. None quite reaching the level of Azog, but none feeling completely off the rails either. Some of the more minor book characters wound up with some odd development however. Bard the bowman becomes an odd mix of Legolas and Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings. Beorn, whom many could be forgiven for forgetting about entirely given the short shrift he received in the second movie, suddenly appears towards the ultimate climax in an entertaining but confusing manner which does nothing for the character at a time when he seems to be superfluous.
On the subject of superfluous, the company of protagonists we set out on this adventure with all take a back seat to the adventures of Thorin and Bilbo, With the shoehorned love story wrapping up around one of the younger dwarves, few of the remaining dwarves even get one brief scene of heroic success. Instead we are left with Bilbo’s departure scene after the battle where we get to say farewell to That Guy, The Fat One, The Other Guy etc. Admittedly it is a large cast to keep track of, but in a movie filled with battle there were plenty of opportunities to give each a brief orc slaying highlight. In a perfect world, the gratuitous action sequences of the previous movies would be excised in favor of our protagonists each getting a fun, daring, or adventurous on screen send off during the ultimate battle instead of the forgettable farewell they receive.
This is not a great movie, it was never going to be, but the fact that Peter Jackson was able to sort everything he had introduced over the first two movies in to a coherent ending which avoided the major setbacks of those movies for the most part is quite a feat. I recommend adjusting your expectations downward though. I went in to this movie questioning whether or not I even wanted to bother watching it as well as having read all of the negative reviews. Yet I came out with an over all positive view. If you’ve seen the other two movies I can definitely recommend seeing this trilogy through to the end. If you saw the first one and decided that this was not the franchise for you, I can still recommend seeing The Battle of Five Armies as it can be mindless, action, fun and has a different feel from the first two movies. Unless you’re opposed to all things Middle Earthy, in which case, why did you bother seeing the first one!?
Okay, now the review is out of the way for what has been on the whole a disappointing franchise, it’s time to discuss The Silmarillion. Peter Jackson has made several subtle attempts at referencing The Silmarillion through out his LOTR/Hobbit franchises. He does not have the movie rights to The Silmarillion. Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. and head of the Tolkien estate, reportedly hasn’t like the movies. Thus, Jackson will likely never get to make a Silmarillion movie if he even wanted to. Which is great.
Jackson has shown that he is hardly the man for the job over the course of six movies. I have often found his interpretation of the world of Middle Earth to be lacking in some regards. Such an opinion isn’t unique either. I’ve seen some iteration of this line of thinking across many forums and fans. Peter Jackson is not the man to make The Silmarillion. So the question is, who is?
The answer hit me a few days ago. Ken Burns. Seriously. The Silmarillion is essentially a history book. It covers too many narratives and too much time to make a cohesive movie plot. But a multi-part Ken Burns documentary would be the perfect format.
Imagine Morgan Freeman narrating about Illuvatar and the Song of the Ainur while trippy visuals pan across the screen accompanied by a Philip Glass style choral piece. Imagine the story of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad retold through the voice of a father chained atop the fortress of Angband, cursed to watch forever as his children fall to misfortune and the kingdom he protected falls to ruin. You could even get Stephen Colbert to do some voice overs. You could probably get Stephen Colbert to do all of the voice overs come to think of it…
This would work, and I think it’s the only way this would work. Now, how to get the Tolkien estate invested in it? If you have an in with the Tolkien estate, or an idea for who could voice what character, or if you think there’s a better documentarian style let me know in the comments.
One day in Texas, many years ago, Stephen was alone listening to the cicadas and wind chimes. Growing bored of that, Stephen went rifling through his father’s bookshelf for something to read. He came across four books with garish 70’s style watercolor illustrations on the covers. The books were The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. To this day Stephen has an obsessive fondness for those books. Not Christopher Lee, read all the books once a year, obsessive. But obsessive enough that he can appreciate the notion.