People have been asking me to review The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (BotFA) since it came out last December. However, we’d decided not to see it in theaters. Since it came out on DVD at the end of March and Dan was born in early April (we actually tried to use the movie to send me into labor, but it didn’t work), a timely blog post just wasn’t going to happen. This weekend we were bored and Redbox had a copy, so here we are.
We did put our youngest Tolkien fan to bed before we got started, to protect his innocent mind.
I watched BotFA with very, very low expectations, so I have to admit I didn’t work up as much rage this time around. I was able to appreciate the few things Peter Jackson did well and laugh at the absurdity of it all. So, for this blog post, we’re going to look at the good, the bad, and the ridiculous.
Like its prequels, BotFA had some redeeming qualities. It was probably worth $1.50.
As always, Martin Freeman is the best part of the movie. I liked nearly every scene Bilbo was in: his interactions with Thorin were great; the acorn scene was cute; the negotiation scene with Bard and Thranduil was well done. You know what would have been great? Tolkien should have just written a book about Bilbo and cut out all that other nonsense. Oh wait…
Sorry, this is supposed to be the positive section. *ahem*
Next on the “stuff that wasn’t terrible” list: This guy.
I liked Dain a lot. He comes riding in with his dwarf army and his battle pig (more on that later) and makes it clear that he won’t take any crap from Gandalf or Thranduil or anyone else. You know what? Just watch it.
Then he leads his army to face down the orcs while the pansy Elves just stand there and watch. Thranduil probably wouldn’t have done anything if he hadn’t been afraid to look bad in front of a bunch of dwarves. Git ‘er done, Dain!
Also, his favorite method of fighting involves headbutting orcs. That’s pretty hardcore. Ironfoot? More like IronHEAD!
I’ll address all the exotic battle steeds used in this movie in the “Ridiculous” section, but the most heart-wrenching part of this movie is definitely the moment when the battle pig goes down. Rest in peace, noble creature.
Finally, the movie’s ending wasn’t bad. We finally get some closure as to Gandalf’s knowledge of the ring, Bilbo finds all his neighbors bidding on his stuff, and the final scene ties this movie in with The Fellowship of the Ring. It was simple, it was sweet, and it worked. This could have been the ending to the Hobbit movie I always wanted.
Now, I know you’re all here to see me angrily rip this movie apart. Never fear, dear readers. There’s plenty of that coming up.
Oh, there was plenty of bad to go around. I ended up with six pages of notes on what was wrong with this movie. Let’s jump right in!
First, let’s talk about the assault on Dol Guldur.
I really wanted to like this scene. I was looking forward to it long before the first Hobbit movie came out. It wasn’t all bad—Elrond’s outfit was pretty awesome. But beyond that, things were extremely disappointing.
First of all, Gandalf is still in his cage. According to movie canon, there’s no reason why he should be out of the cage, necessarily, but it brought back all these unpleasant memories from The Desolation of Smaug. Sigh. Then Galadriel comes in, and you know things are about to get weird.
By the way—what’s with the implied weird romantic subplot involving Gandalf and Galadriel? Why do they keep touching each other like that? Are we all supposed to just forget that Galadriel is a married woman and has a 2700-year-old granddaughter?
But wait—it gets worse. Not only does Galadriel spend the first half of the battle cradling Gandalf in her arms and ignoring the fighting, but when she does get involved, she transforms into the evil swamp hag.
Peter Jackson, you do realize that the Elven rings aren’t evil, right? Sauron had no contact with them, ever. In fact, I’m pretty sure when Celebrimbor hid them from Sauron, he thought, “I’ve got to keep these safe so their bearers don’t become evil swamp hags when they try to use them.” Elves are pretty clever that way.
And of course, the rabbit sled makes an appearance. I guess it wouldn’t be a Hobbit movie without it, but can’t we let it die already?
Anyway, the whole scene lasts about 8 minutes, and probably makes the top 50 most disappointing 8-minute segments of my life.
Tauriel and Legolas
Tauriel continues to drag these movies further down into the muck. She contributes nothing positive, and because she’s around, Legolas has to be around, too. Any scene with either Legolas or Tauriel was painful to watch. Starting with this one:
Oh, Legolas. First of all, how did you think this was going to end? Tauriel defied an (admittedly boneheaded) order from Thranduil, and you tagged along after her. And she was already in the doghouse—of course she’s going to be banished.
Second, the whole “If there is no place for Tauriel, there is no place for me” thing made me throw up in my mouth a little.
To be fair, Legolas spends very little time mooning over Tauriel for the rest of the movie. But that leaves the two of them without a lot to do, as Tauriel’s improbable dwarven love interest is busy hanging out with his bros in the Lonely Mountain. You can’t leave the fangirls without Orlando Bloom for that long, so Lego and Tauriel take a pointless vacation to Gundabad and discover the orc army there.
Why is it pointless, you ask? Because it has absolutely no effect on the outcome of the final battle. How could it? Legolas’ and Tauriel’s warning about this Gundabad army doesn’t exist in the book, and yet somehow, the good guys still win.
Furthermore, with his characteristic laziness, Peter Jackson doesn’t even attempt to make it look like Tauriel and Legolas contributed anything important with this discovery. They warn Bilbo, Bilbo warns Thorin on Ravenhill, Thorin tells Dwalin to call Fili and Kili, and before Dwalin can do anything, the orcs show up and off Fili. As far as I can tell from this jumbled-up, illogical sequence of orc-stabbing scenes, they didn’t provide their information early enough to prevent anything or change the course of the battle at all.
While we’re talking about nonsensical action sequences, Tom wishes me to mention that no piece of masonry would ever act like this:
(Okay, I guess Legolas and Tauriel do kill some important things in that part. They’re still completely unnecessary.)
Let’s move on. Tauriel’s greatest offense continues to be her awkward, improbable romance with Kili. Worse than their awkward flirtations are her whiny, pubescent conversations with Thranduil on the subject. I swear these scenes could have been pulled out of a Twilight movie.
Tauriel: “THERE IS NO LOVE IN YOU!”
Thranduil: “YOUR VAMPIRE LOVE AIN’T REAL!”
Lego: “DAD STAAAAAAHP” (*flashes werewolf abs*)
And then there’s this one:
Cringe-inducing. I almost expected to see Tauriel moping in a chair in front of a window while the camera pans around and the months pass by. There’s a possibilityyyyyyyyyyyy…
The phrase “Still a better love story than Twilight” doesn’t apply here.
And then Legolas throws a hissy fit and refuses to go home for unexplained reasons.
Seriously, someone this delicate has no business in the Fellowship of the Ring.
GANDALF: (reading) “…Speak, friend, and enter. And underneath small and faint is written: TRIGGER WARNING: Orcs in here, bro.”
LEGO: “Whoa whoa whoa! Sorry, dudes. I don’t do orcs. Come on, Bill.”
Exeunt LEGO and BILL.
The worst part is that Tauriel doesn’t even die at the end. I wanted her to die so badly, maybe even hand in hand with Kili. It would have been so, so satisfying. Instead we’re left to wonder what happens to her, since she’s apparently still exiled from Mirkwood. Oh well. Maybe she died of a broken heart off camera—a girl can hope.
Thorin’s Insanity and “Dragon Sickness”
I want to briefly touch on the fact that Thorin’s greed and corruption were blown up to unreasonable, bizarre proportions, and we’re supposed to believe that it’s all because a giant lizard sat on his money for awhile.
I’m sorry, but this whole “dragon sickness” thing is way overblown. You can be corrupted by greed without any sort of supernatural curse making you go absolutely bat-guano crazy. This is, in fact, the case for most people who are corrupted by greed. Last I checked there weren’t many dragons in Washington, DC, for example.
Seriously, if this treasure is so dangerous, how are the Lake-men supposed to use it to rebuild their town? How is Bilbo able to take some home and become fabulously wealthy? Wouldn’t it make the Lonely Mountain uninhabitable forever? News flash: after the battle, Dain moves right in. But maybe Dain is incorruptible because of his indestructible head and his fondness for porcine steeds.
Even Gandalf is taken in by the supposed “dragon sickness” nonsense. And he’s supposed to be the smartest guy here. And don’t get me started on that “Don’t underestimate the evil of gold” nonsense.
Thorin’s madness culminates in this acid-trip-esque hallucination involving that lake o’ gold I love so much.
I know when I’ve been a moron about something, it takes a weird hallucination to make me see reason. Personally, I prefer to be swallowed up in a lake of hummus. Or maybe pho.
Look, there are a lot of perfectly mundane reasons for Thorin to become corrupted by greed. He’s just regained control of an amazing treasure stolen from his family. The moment he gets it, everyone comes knocking at the door trying to grab it back from him, Rainbow-Fish-style. Normally he’d probably be okay with that, but these people are armed; among them is Thranduil, the jerk who threw him in prison. Human nature is inclined to be stingy under those circumstances; dwarf nature even more so. Thorin simply chooses to indulge these feelings instead of deciding to be the bigger man (uh, dwarf), and so he becomes corrupted. It doesn’t have to be weird, and it doesn’t have to involve “dragon sickness.”
In short, Peter Jackson took a potentially relatable character arc and turned it into a freak show. In other words, it’s business as usual in Hobbit Movie Land. Sigh.
I’m only scratching the surface on what was wrong with this movie. Here are some other things I noticed that didn’t quite generate paragraphs worth of rage:
- Gandalf is a total pushover in this movie. He spends the whole time whining when Thranduil won’t do what he wants, and Bilbo is continually getting the better of him. What happened to this guy?
- This Asian.
I’m all for cultural diversity, but a place as tiny and isolated as Lake-town is just not likely to be that diverse.
- Another Billy Boyd song? He’s not even a very good singer.
- I hate to say this, but Howard Shore continues to disappoint.
Every time I watch BotFA, there’s a distinct moment in which I can actually feel part of my brain shutting down—the part connecting the movie with the book. See if you can figure out which moment I’m talking about:
If you guessed the were-worms popping out of the hills, you get a gold star! (Ding!)
From that point, I stop registering deviations from the events of the book. I still notice things that are lame or nonsensical, but I can sit back, relax, and revel in the ridiculousness of it all. I almost wish my brain had been overloaded like this earlier in the series, but then I realize that my conscious revulsion has saved me money that might have been spent purchasing DVDs or seeing this abomination in theaters.
As for the were-worms, I don’t think much commentary is needed. I’ll just add that the only basis for the presence of were-worms in Middle-earth is this throwaway comment by Bilbo at the beginning of the book:
“Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert.”
This blog post is already way too long, so let’s move on.
What’s with all the animals?
I titled this post “Battle of the Farm Animals” because of the astounding variety of war-steeds used in BotFA. We were introduced to Thranduil’s majestic elk in An Unexpected Journey, but the animal doesn’t really come into his own until this scene:
And then the elk dies, just as I’m starting to like it. Oh well. It still wasn’t as sad as the pig’s death.
The elk and the pig are enough to make one wonder why no one rides horses anymore (okay, so dwarves really can’t, but Thranduil has no excuse). Not to mention the rabbit sled. But wait! There’s more!
(Sorry…you’ll have to skip to about 1:40 in the video)
Where on earth did Thorin and Co. find fully domesticated battle goats, particularly in an area patrolled (until recently) by a giant carnivorous lizard?! Is there some sort of traveling battle farm where people can just buy domesticated animals on which to charge down orcs? How can I get in on this business?
On a more serious note, I’ve just learned that 27 animals died, sometimes in horrific ways, during the production of the Hobbit movies. I’m no animal rights activist, but that’s pretty darn bad. Chalk that up as another of Peter Jackson’s offenses.
Next on our list of ridiculous BotFA elements…
Can we just pause for a moment and consider the fact that this man is named “Alfrid Lickspittle”? That is the actual name of an actual character in this movie.
This man serves no narrative purpose. He just hangs around Bard and annoys everyone around him by saying things like, “Out of my way! Abandon the cripples!” and “Not every man is brave enough to wear a corset.” He’s a completely static character. Why is he in this movie?
As Tom puts it, “Realistically, somebody ought to shank him.”
In conclusion, I liked BotFA much more than Desolation of Smaug, though only because my expectations were outrageously low. It may have had its moments, but for every battle pig there were three were-worms, so the whole business is doomed.
At least the series is over, and Peter Jackson’s reign of terror comes to an end at last. (It does come to an end, right? He can’t possibly be thinking about The Silmarillion, can he? CAN HE?!?!?!?). Also on the plus side, the How it Should Have Ended guys are on point.
To end on a positive note, here’s a goofy picture of Dan that always makes me smile.