This movie presented this reviewer with a tidy ethical dilemma. Regular readers know I saw the first two installments in the interminable Hobbit trilogy in the theater (in 3D) and wrote about them here, so I felt some obligation to complete the sequence. On the other hand, long familiarity with the source material led me to be pretty sure this movie was going to be pretty depressing, and on the evidence of the first two parts, probably not very good either. Is it a violation of some kind of social contract to go to the movies fully expecting not to be entertained? My internal debate led me to conclude it probably was.
But I went anyway. It was impossible to resist. And I was basically correct: Battle of Five Armies is pretty depressing and not very good. But, like the rest of the series, it is not without interest. As always, the details are behind the cut in case any of you are determined to try it out and don’t want to be spoiled.
In The Hobbit, Battle of Five Armies, there is an cameo by Billy Connolly. He plays a red haired dwarf lord who rides a giant pig. (Not a wild boar, a domestic pig.) This is absolutely awesome. I’m not sure it was worth the price of admission, but if you end up going to this movie, you will enjoy it very much. So, Billy Connolly riding a piggy: excellent.
Also good: Saruman and Galadriel getting all superpowerful wizard badass on the Nazgul in the ruins of Dol Guldur. Lee Pace’s Thranduil and his giant war elk. (Or is it a red deer?) Richard Armitage, as always, being absolutely stunningly attractive as Thorin, the doomed (but very, very hot) dwarf king. A quite interesting single combat on the surface of a frozen lake. Surprisingly, continuing interesting performances by the actors playing chief orc Azog and his sidekick (and son?) Bolg. Bard and his son, and their relationship. Moments of Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo, which were very good indeed.
Not so good, but still interesting: The sets for the abandoned city of Dale, the ruins of Erebor, and Bilbo’s empty hobbit hole. Thorin’s epic, Shakespearean madness and recovery from same. The dwarvish armory in Erebor and the design of the dwarvish armor found there. The brief and tragic reappearance of the dragon Smaug. (He was terrific: what wasn’t so good was him being killed in his only scene. The dragon is a great character.) The nasty, over the top details of the orcish military machine, which prove they are as cruel to each other as they are to their enemies. The inexplicable but charming giant goats ridden by some of the dwarves in one sequence.
Not so good, period: Pretty much everything else. Not enough work for the dwarves, too much work for the elves. Tauriel, not interesting. Legolas, also not interesting, except in one scene with his father where Orlando Bloom seemed to be acting, and one rather stunning combat sequence. Stupid drag jokes and other tone deaf attempts at slapstick humor. Also, the battle scenes, which tend to drag and feature legions of characters wearing more or less identical suits of armor, all shot from the patented Peter Jackson distant vistas. These battle scenes take up more than half the running time, and they could be trimmed. A lot. With an axe.
The verdict: More Billy Connolly riding a piggy. Less of almost everything else. The general conclusion from wiser reviewers than I is that the three Hobbit movies, so beautiful to look at and so flawed, and so very, very long, could be edited down into two good films of moderate length. I say let the cutting begin.