The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Take 2, IMAX Screening Review

Now, my review comes a little late, and is inspired by watching the third installation of The Hobbit for a second time. I know, I know; somehow I had forgotten how awful it was the first time around.

This piece comes from a conflicted place of love and anger: I wrote my dissertation on Tolkien, visited New Zealand just for Hobbiton and dedicated a thigh to tattooed Tolkien’s drawing of Moria’s glorious doors. I have an almost otherworldly obsession with the mythology and pure admiration for Peter Jackson’s adaptations of The Lord of the Rings.

Saying all of this, Peter, why would you do this to us?

After reading countless reviews of this movie, I’ll try to avoid discussing anything that I’ve already read a thousand times, though forgive me if I echo other bloggers. Let’s go forward with a few of my key ‘oh, you didn’t’ moments in the movie:

  1. Characters not dying when they really, really should have.
HBT3-066396r
“Did you see that Bard? Bilbo just knocked out like 3 Orcs with rocks!”

Fantasy like Tolkien’s needs a basis in realism, believe it or not. Boromir fights against the odds and dies, Gandalf battles his equals, and is defeated/ killed. The Hobbit features several too many unrealistic death-defying stunts and skills. I know Hobbits are resilient, but I find it extremely hard to believe that Bilbo can knock the bad guys out from throwing rocks at them or that he would survive a fall so obviously fatal in TDOS. Sorry Jackson, I’ll let Legolas’ shield surfing slide but that bizarre beast hitch-hike was a trick too many.

  1. Martin Freeman’s face.
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“I don’t really have enough lines in this trilogy so I’ll just twitch some more.”

That nose twitch. Oh, that bloody nose twitch. In all three films. Perhaps this is just my oversensitivity at being shown so many close-ups of Freeman’s ‘quirky’ little face and that darlingly ‘adorable’ twitch he uses in every role he plays; all it did was take the character of Bilbo away and replace it with, well, Martin Freeman.

  1. Douche under the Mountain.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
“I’m the most honorable dwarf in Middle-earth.. jk I have an imaginary sickness that has turned me into a total asshole.”

Let me start by saying that Richard Armitage is a joy to the world and largely, his acting of Thorin was heavenly. However, despite his [valiant and honorable] final acts as King under the Mountain, Thorin’s positive character traits were utterly dismembered and flung off of Barad-dúr. Yes, hastily, some parts were collected and he was kind-of put back together at the end. But if I was Bilbo, I wouldn’t cry over his dead tried-to-throw-Bilbo-off-of-the-ramparts body. Even Boromir wasn’t that much of a tool in his ring-greed.

  1. Unnecessary Troll disfigurement.
brwbwr
I couldn’t even find images of the other trolls I wanted to feature, I guess people don’t feel like making stills of them… I wonder why.

Troll after troll popped up on screen. Each one with a myriad of physical disabilities, explicitly inferred mental disabilities, disfigurements and limb amputations.There was an unnecessary fierce determination to represent as many trolls like this. And, as I watched, an extremely uncomfortable feeling crept up on me as it became clear this negative perception of the trolls was [obviously] to promote disgust and fear, and it was furthered by negative representations of disability. We can further expand this to the other ‘evil’ forces in Middle-Earth. I feel like I’m not wholly the right person to explore this issue, and so I would love to hear other people’s views on this.

  1. The eagles are not horses. And also, horses are not cars.

    eagles
    “We’re just supposed to help every so often whilst flying and looking majestic, stop asking us to swoop in and tear apart bats Mithrandir.”

For a moment lets ignore the abundant use of horses in Middle-Earth (the vegan in me rages but we need to leave Tolkien’s speciesism for another day), and focus on the role of the eagles (were the eagles the fifth army? Discuss).

If anybody really knows Tolkien’s Middle-Earth then they would know that the eagles wouldn’t fly Frodo and Sam to Mount Doom, nor Thorin’s company to the Lonely Mountain. Because, wait for it, they are not servants of man, dwarf, or elf. You see, that’s Tolkien’s thing: the natural world and its right to exist apart from the exploitative nature of man. Eagles are a symbol of this freedom, and of nature’s sentience. Sure, they choose to help now and then, but they’re not to be called upon on a whim because a battle scene just needs an aerial collision of bird and beast.

Let us not forget (nor forgive):

The disastrous 3D IMAX cinematography; it had a low-budget BBC historical drama feel, more noticeable at the beginning of the movie, right at home on a Doctor Who episode. Talk at me about the necessary aspects of 3D IMAX filming all you want, the fact was it was impossible to immerse myself in Middle-Earth when I was wondering when David Tenant was going to make an appearance.

The ‘earth-eaters’: relevant for about 0.0834 seconds and seemingly thrown in because Jackson lost some kind of bet to the CGI technicians.

The juxtaposition of attempted comedy and serious themes; there is certainly room for humor in Middle-earth, which we experienced in LOTR trilogy, but the Hobbit’s was just disastrous and off-key, even for a children’s movie

That awkward and completely unnecessary romance that was supposed to pull at our heart-strings It was only Kili‘s likeability that made me tear up a little when the final stroke fell.

And, onto that, the unceremonious murder of Fili that we don’t have chance to register before we are forced to concentrate on Kili’s death.

Over and over again, the repetition and near repetition of lines and scenes from LOTR. I don’t know whether it was supposed to invoke some kind of nostalgia for the trilogy or something else, either way, it felt forced, overly scripted, and almost like a betrayal.

A wholly CGI dwarf. Let that sink in.

Will I buy the Hobbit trilogy, and will I watch them again? Probably. Jackson had a tough job adapting a 300 page children’s book into a trilogy that would please everybody. There was some beautiful character building and acting, a tiny bit of genuine comedy, and some badass dialogue, but it really wasn’t enough to invoke the sense of wonder and happiness I get from the LOTR trilogy every time.

And, would I like to see, say, The Silmarillion on the big screen? I would cry for joy, but I’m also a little too frightened of everything that could go wrong.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
“Shotgun not telling Peter he can’t make ‘Unfinished Tales’, Gandalf you’re up.”

What are your thoughts, negative, positive or confused, on The Hobbit? I’d love to hear your challenges, agreements, and unique perspectives, whether avid fan or casual film-goer.

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