It is with a heavy heart and hours of wasted time that I come to you to inform you that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the conclusion of the Hobbit film trilogy, is hardly worth your time. Of course, if you’ve seen the previous two installments, you’re going to see this one anyway, but it’s the weakest film in the series in several regards. Its plot and characters are almost non-existent, any attempts at drama completely fail, and its use of stand-ins for actors is so bad that it sometimes distracts from the proceedings.
Right off the bat, we learn that a poor decision was made in production. Remember how the second film ended with Smaug (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) getting ready to destroy Laketown? Yeah, that gets resolved before the title card is even shown for this one. 10 more minutes and The Desolation of Smaug wouldn’t have ended on such an anti-climax. It might have been easier to like if that was the case. Then we basically ignore all of the Smaug events anyway, as we follow a brooding and slightly crazy Thorin (Richard Armitage) and a convoluted setup to the titular Battle of the Five Armies. Then the battle happens, and that’s all the movie has to offer.
No, seriously. Smaug gets dealt with in ten minutes, then we get all sorts of orcs, elves, humans, and dwarves gathered around his little palace, they fight for a while, and then the movie ends. It’s a little messy, some characters die — not that you’ll care about them — and the only one with any growth is Thorin, whose growth results in him … being the same person he was when the trilogy started. What development!
As the title indicates, the film is centered on the Battle of the Five Armies. Orcs get two armies, while elves, dwarves, and humans make up the other ones. Thorin and co. hold themselves up in the fortress they liberated from Smaug, the big dragon, because Thorin’s gone slightly crazy. The humans want enough money to rebuild Laketown, the elves show up wanting some shiny jewels, and since Thorin has gone crazy, he’s not letting anyone have anything. They’re all ready to fight — Thorin’s cousin shows up with an army, too — before some Orcs show up wanting to take it all. Then they fight for a while.
I wish it wasn’t so basic on a screenplay level, but that’s really all it is. The battle feels a lot like the one over Helm’s Deep, except that it’s nowhere near as exciting, and also serves as the climax of the trilogy, not a stepping stone. There’s nothing to follow other than the action, and since it’s mostly involving either nameless, personality-less dwarves or characters we haven’t even seen until immediately before the battle, it’s really hard to care. And the dwarves don’t even join in until the end.
All of the secondary characters get something to do, although lots of them disappear for large chunks of time, during which we have no idea what they’re doing. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) wind up essentially being disowned by their tribe, so they go off on their own. Bard (Luke Evans) is leading the humans, but once the battle starts is only sometimes seen. Gandalf (Ian McKellan) … sometimes shows up. All of the dwarves sit around for most of the film, not that you’ll care, since unless you’ve read the books and are big fans, you’re unlikely to be able to differentiate them, and even Bilbo (Martin Freeman), our theoretical protagonist, is missing from large portions of the film at a time.
There are attempts at drama that are laughably unsuccessful. Death should mean something, but it doesn’t come across as all that important here, especially because of who winds up dead. Obviously going into who that is would count as spoilers, but there are three “major” deaths and you might — might — care about one of them.
One scene has Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Saruman (Christopher Lee) rescuing Gandalf, and the amount of time those actors are on-screen in comparison to body doubles is laughable and distracting.
Are there positives? Sure. The action, while not involving, is solid. We get our requisite “boss fights,” which are fun enough, and director Peter Jackson is still one of the best at throwing armies at one another and letting them duke it out. The film is as pretty as all the earlier chapters, too, so if you’re just here for the eye-candy, you get that. Just don’t expect to feel particularly involving in the action, and be prepared to feel disappointed when it’s all done. By the time The Battle of the Five Armies comes to an end, it becomes painfully clear that The Hobbit did not need a trilogy to tell its story.
With the weakest screenplay, characters who come and go as they please and don’t develop in the slightest, and strong action that is hard to become emotionally invested in, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a disappointing conclusion to the Hobbit trilogy. Very little feels like it means anything, most of the film is just one big battle — or a convoluted way to set up the aforementioned battle — and by the time all’s said and done, we’ll have realized that The Hobbit didn’t need a trilogy. Two films would have sufficed. One film might’ve even done the job. The action’s fun, but it’s of the “been there, seen that” variety, especially without the emotional investment required in order to make it worthwhile. The Hobbit goes out with a whimper, not with a bang.