The Hobbit: The Abomination of the Five Armies
The opening sequence of the third installment of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit is absolutely stunning, and left me wondering if all those critics were wrong after all. Could The Battle of Five Armies make up for the missteps in The Desolation of Smaug? Sure seemed that way. This film starts where the last ended. The dragon Smaug is about to raze Laketown after the dwarves’ ridiculous attempt to kill him with molten gold back in the Lonely Mountain. Bard is in a jail reminiscent of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. The Master seeks to rescue his fortune while his subjects swim for their lives. Smaug’s attack is truly awe-inspiring, as is Bard’s slaying of him. The sequence is every bit as impressive as the opening of The Two Towers, when we see Gandalf battle the Balrog in the Mines of Moria.
How does Jackson follow it up? With an imbecilic scene between Tauriel the elf and Kili the dwarf expressing love for one another. While I had no real problem with Tauriel in theory, the love story between her and Kili is incomprehensible, and ultimately, as I pointed out in my review of The Desolation of Smaug, misogynistic. Do the writers of The Hobbit—which includes two women—really think females can only be motivated by love for a man (or in this case, dwarf)? It would seem that way. Jackson could have used her in a far more interesting and dramatic way. Instead, as my wife Katie pointed out, he fills her mouth with dialogue that sounds like it was written by an 11 year old.
The narrative shifts then to Gandalf, who is held prisoner in Dol Gulder by the Necromancer. Galadriel, Saruman and Elrond come to his rescue. This sequence is every bit as good as the razing of Laketown. Elrond and Saruman battle the nine ringwraiths, and ultimately Galadriel crushes Sauron and sends his spirit into the East. Stupendous.
Things go downhill from there. Bilbo doesn’t do a whole lot. Thorin slowly goes mad, and then quickly pulls himself out of it for no apparent reason, just in time for him and his army of twelve whole dwarves to turn the tide of the Battle of the Five Armies. Those expecting something on the scale of the Battle of Pelennor Fields will be sorely disappointed. It’s not particular dramatic or interesting. I, like many other hard-core Tolkien fans, couldn’t wait to see Beorn the Skin-changer kick butt. You will see him fight for approximately two seconds. Radagast shows up on a giant eagle, but doesn’t fight. Instead, Jackson decides we’d rather see Tauriel cry to her king about the death of Kili. I know we’re supposed to get all emotional here, but giving the implausibility of the relationship, we are more likely to vomit than cry.
Jackson takes part of the battle to the ruined city of Dale, perhaps to remind us of the storming of Minas Tirith in The Return of the King. This gives Bard the chance to rescue his kids in an eye-rolling maneuver involving a wagon rolling down a hill like a roller coaster car. Bilbo ends up in the city somehow, giving him the chance to wander from parapet to parapet for no apparent reason. Thorin dies in a duel with Azog, the one armed mega-orc who’s been hunting him since film one. The scene reminded me of the last battle between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan in that last crappy Star Wars film, except instead of fighting on lava, Jackson has his dudes fight on ice. Meanwhile, Legolas defies gravity in one duel after another, even at one point taking a flight by holding onto the claws of a bat.
Ultimately, I don’t think Peter Jackson had any interest in adapting The Hobbit. He really wanted to make another version of The Lord of the Rings. Many of the speeches sound like paraphrased speeches from LOTR. Unfortunately, for the nearly 1 billion dollars Jackson spent making The Hobbit, we’re getting only a pale imitation of his earlier masterpiece.