AFTER 13 years, six films, and 1,031 minutes finally we have come to the end of Peter Jackson’s incredible Middle Earth saga. Even if you are not a fan of the movies you must respect how Jackson has handled the immense project.
The director somehow talked himself into the job as a director of The Lord of the Rings films in the late 1990s with a pretty unremarkable career to that point. He then proceeded to create one of the highest grossing movie franchises of all time from a text deemed unfilmable.
Jackson picked up a lot of good will with the original trilogy. He is a huge fan of the source material so cuts or additions to the stories he made were nearly always smart and did not interfere with the original flow of Tolkien’s often bulky novels. Yet, I was extremely disappointed when the original director (handpicked by Jackson, who was to stay on as a producer ) Guillermo del Toro dropped out of the Hobbit movies due to delays and creative differences.
Jackson’s heart certainly has not been in the Hobbit movies like it was in the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, but still I’m sure it was not Jackson who made the mad but probably lucrative decision to stretch it out into three films. Each of the Hobbit movies felt bloated and too long and The Battle Of The Five Armies is no exception.
Smaug is on his way to Laketown to rain fire on what must be the most unlucky residents in Middle Earth. The town is attacked by orcs, dragons, and elves during the film. Solely populated by elderly men, women, and children it never works out well for the poor old Laketowners. Meanwhile Bilbo and the Dwarfs are in Smaug’s vacated lair searching for the films MacGuffin - The Arkenstone.
We never really learn what The Arkenstone does so it is hard to buy into its importance - but they really do want it. This is pretty much all that happens. From here, the titular battle starts, and unless you are a 10-year-old boy there is not much else to see or enjoy.
The problem is within these massive battles. The scale is so large you can barely make out individuals. It is tough to care about large formations of computer generated orcs, elves, and humans crashing into each other. It feels like watching a video game you are not able to control. It all comes back to the original decision to break the movie up into three parts, there simply is not enough content so we have essentially two hours and 30 minutes of computer generated battles.
There is also the problem that, due to it being a prequel, we are not really scared for our heroes. When Gandalf is a prisoner in Dol Guldur it is pretty certain he will escape unscathed. This would not be so bad if we got some scenes of dialogue or story between the huge set pieces. There are some positives, the few short scenes we do get with Martin Freeman as Bilbo are great. After being the real star of the first two Hobbit movies he has been relegated to a much smaller role. This is really frustrating considering how good he is as Bilbo.
It is a shame this is the final chapter in a great saga, but it does not cheapen the legacy of the franchise. Peter Jackson changed cinema in the early 2000s but his tricks and tropes have run their course at this stage. Hopefully he will move on to some new projects and show us the creativity we saw in his early movies like Bad Taste and Heavenly Creatures.