Cinematic Spooge: The third hobbit film is a bloated, special-effects-laden mess

Jan 6 • ARTSY SMARTSY, FEATURE SIDEBAR, Film, Reviews, Interviews and FeaturesNo Comments on Cinematic Spooge: The third hobbit film is a bloated, special-effects-laden mess

To me “The Hobbit” films are the most salient example of the excessive bloat that exists in Hollywood. Director Peter Jackson has taken a very fun, sleight adventure story and worked overtime to turn it into something that thematically matches his previous Tolkien trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings.”  I’ve dinged the first two films for being relatively rudderless special-effects reels that are too long and shallow on character development.  In an effort to be epic, Jackson has sucked all the joy out of a fun story.

hobbit

AN EMPTY EPIC: “The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies” creates a disconnected story full of flat characters. Courtesy photo.

For a movie titled “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies,” there’s very little hobbit. That was the thought that continuously cycled through my head as I watched the final installment of this hot hobbit-less mess. Our title character, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), seems to be a passive witness to so many of these huge events going on around him. 

The film picks right back up at the conclusion of the second installment: The evil dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) has been forced out of his mountain hideaway and begins to take vengeance on the poor citizens of Lake Town. The heroic Bard risks life and limb to take down the nefarious dragon in a wonderfully staged battle. Eventually, Bard fells the cruel beast. Cut to Bilbo miles away from the action: He turns to the other members of his travelling party and says,“Oh, look! Smaug is dead!” I burst into laughter. It’s a glaring example of how disconnected “The Hobbit” films have been. All these different stories run independently of one another with no connective tissue. 

“The Battle of the Five Armies” starts with Bilbo, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), and 11 other characters I couldn’t name if my life depended on it, atop the mountain, reclaiming their home and the vast treasure that accompanies it. Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan) is still prisoner of the evil eye Sauron. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) is off hunting down some evil Orcs. The movie is constantly shifting back and forth between stories that lack both gravitas and geography. Who’s involved or why it’s happening is so poorly conveyed. 

The final installment seeks to tie up loose ends. There’s a lot crammed into the third film, and very little of it involves Bilbo. Thorin is obsessed with keeping the kingdom his family lost so long ago. He refuses to honor his agreements for reparations with Bard and has seriously irked the King of the Forrest Elves (Lee Pace). Tensions are high and everyone prepares for a fight. While all the forces of good are distracted with their petty grievances, the Orcs sweep in and donkey punch everyone in Middle Earth. Once again audiences are treated to a really long battle from Peter Jackson that just goes on and on. A giant, infinite green-screen cartoon with so little at stake. For half the battle, our main characters are just hanging back—completely removed from the fray. 

It feels almost impossible to judge “The Battle of the Five Armies” as an independent movie: It’s merely part of a longer, larger sum that contains the same flaws and failures. The characters feel underdeveloped even after nine hours of screen time. Relationships feel pointless and forced. Action sequences border on the ridiculous. There’s one sequence near the end that looks like it’s cribbed straight out of Super Mario Brothers, in which Legolas jumps on a series of falling blocks. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see a magic mushroom stroll onto the screen.

The biggest failure of “The Hobbit” series all comes back to the original argument: There was no need to make three movies out of this book. It has been padded to the point of ludicrousness and is so bloated it makes Jabba the Hutt look like Ariana Grande. “The Battle of the Five Armies” is another big-budget, directionless mess. It’s a damn shame when $200 million can buy you little more than a theme-park ride. Character, story, and world building have all become immaterial—lost in a sea of pristine images sprayed onto the screen with the accuracy and care of a nudie booth interior. The first two Hobbit films were one long tease. “The Battle of the Five Armies” is one, long tartaric release without pleasure or purpose. It’s cinematic spooge. Like lackluster sex, it’s less about enjoyment and more about being happy it’s over.

DETAILS: 

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

stars
Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage
Directed by Peter Jackson
Rated PG

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