part three of The Hobbit? You ever try to think of that from their perspective? It's because this beloved franchise has been watered down into a cash cow. Peter Jackson decimated the franchise when he went for quantity over quality. And guess what? The Tolkien estate doesn't like that, so they want Hollywood to get its hands off this franchise for a while. Now, before you accuse me of being a LOTR hater, let me remind you: the four-and-a-half hour extended edition of Return of the King is to this day my favorite movie of all-time. It is a masterpiece of American cinema, and this movie is trying so hard to walk in its footsteps. I'm sorry, but it doesn't work. This is not the defining chapter of the LOTR saga that it's being marketed as, and if you try to say that it is....well I don't want to say you're wrong, but you're not right.
Once again this quantity over quality style shows here, as we essentially get two hours of battle scenes that could've just as easily been condensed into the final hour of a three hour movie over the course of this 144 minute film. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind getting two hours of battle LOTR-style battle scenes, but I didn't care about any of it. Unlike the climax of Return of the King in the Battle of Minas Tirith, where you feel an incredible feeling of despair and emotion as you see Sauron's army for the first time as it approaches the gates, you never feel that in The Battle of the Five Armies.
The primary fault of never having this feeling of despair is that you never feel like the good guys lose any ground versus the orcs. In the Battle of Minas Tirith, the army has a valiant stand on the first level, but the battle eventually becomes a street fight because Gondor's army can't withstand a force of hundreds of thousands. Well, we have hundreds of thousands of orcs here too, and versus an even smaller force of good guys on an open plain (without the cover of the buildings of Minas Tirith) and yet.....everyone's fine. There's one point....ok this sums up my biggest fault with this movie. At one point, a few members of the company, including Thorin, separate themselves from the bulk of the battle. A scout comes to them and says a hundred goblin scouts are going to attack them. Thorin literally turns to the company and sends all but himself and one other guy off to warn everyone else that another force is approaching, and that they'll handle the hundred goblins. By themselves. Two versus one hundred. Really???? Drives me crazy when a franchise so good at creating gravitas like LOTR is diluted down to our heroes being comparable to a Sylvester Stallone-Expendables-like hero. God d*mnit.
Ok I'm going to talk about one other thing that really pissed me off before talking about good stuff, ok? Remember that cliffhanger ending in The Desolation of Smaug that drove you (hopefully) and me absolutely crazy? Ya. So they pick up right where they left off and the resolve the plot line involving Smaug within the first 15 minutes of this movie. Can you imagine if The Two Towers just ended as Gandalf appeared at the top of the mountain while the orcs were about to break into the keep? The fact that ANYONE can be ok with Peter Jackson ending The Desolation of Smaug the way he did is just.....mind boggling. It's honestly idiotic to be ok with this. And it really just put a sour taste in my mouth for a large part of this movie. Shame on you for doing this to The Hobbit franchise, Peter Jackson. Shame on you.
Ok, so....good things. The acting is once again great. This may be Martin Freeman's best performance of the entire trilogy, honestly. I really enjoyed how his style of acting with his various facial twitches were on full display here, even magnified a bit. I loved it, and really enjoyed Jackson's decision to have him play BIlbo. I thought that was a great move. Legolas is once again an absolute boss here. His fight with one of the top-ranking orcs just might be the best scene of the whole movie. And even though his involvement in the HORRIBLE love triangle that is him, Tauriel, and one of the dwarves was unnecessary and really took away from how Legolas really grew to be fond of the dwarves, it still wasn't enough to diminish his overall role in The Hobbit, despite never being in the actual book. There was a lot of fan service in this movie, honestly. And I really enjoyed that. Seeing Saruman fight Sauron with Galadriel and Elrond was truly badass, even if it wasn't really anything more than a fan service. Um.....the cinematography is great. Since we finally got some big battle scenes here, the sweeping camera shots that Jackson employed a lot in the LOTR trilogy battles that I personally loved made a welcome return. The old Jackson camera style has always been a personal favorite, so the battle scenes were fun to watch in part because of these wide shots. I wish more directed copied Peter Jackson's style. The music was good, though not great. The only time the music really stood out was when the themes from the original trilogy showed up again. Granted that's one of my favorite movie scores of all-time, unlike the work of John Williams in the new Star Wars trilogy which was just as good as the original trilogy, Shore has struggle mightily to find a niche with the new Hobbit trilogy. He had a great theme in the first movie with the Misty Mountains song, (which was my favorite part of the first movie, by the way) but he seemed to have forgotten that theme in the last two movies, as it has been totally removed from the movies and replaced with, well, nothing. For me personally, this may be the most disappointing part of this entire Hobbit trilogy. To go from a masterpiece in the LOTR trilogy to generic background music with the occasional trumpet or string line is very upsetting to me the music nerd. But the action scenes were still good, and I still found myself feeling sad at the end of the movie knowing that this is the end of a beloved franchise.
I'm going to shut up now, but there's still a lot of disappointing things in this movie that I haven't covered. Like how fake the cgi characters look. They look less realistic than they did in the original trilogy, which is really, really depressing. Or Tauriel. I spent a lot of time bashing her character and its existence in my Desolation of Smaug review, so I won't do it again here. Just....I love Evangeline Lilly. Bless her soul. I really want to see her do well in Hollywood post-Lost. But not here. That character sucks. I wish they had gotten someone like Jessica Biel to play her so I can bash the performance in addition to the writing. But I can't. The performance is good, but her entire existence in the series is frustrating. Ok! Moving on.
In short, this movie is above average, but painfully so. It is so disappointing to me to see one of my favorite franchises decimated like this, but we're still ok with it. This movie has set a terrible precedent in Hollywood that (hopefully) us the consumer will eventually speak out against with our wallets, but until then, we are just going to have to accept that quantity over quality is the new norm with film adaptations of great novels. I'm going to go cry now. Again.
The Critique: A painfully above average final installment in the LOTR franchise.
The Recommendation: Hobbit fans have already seen this movie and already hate me, but if you haven't seen a single LOTR movie yet, please please PLEASE watch the original three. Then maybe sludge through these.
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
Well....we come to it at last. The end of the LOTR franchise. I wish I had better words for this movie. Really. One of these days, I'll return to this franchise and review the first three, but it is not this day that that will happen. This day, I must focus on other things. But some days. Until then, I'll see y'all again in my next review!
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