The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies isn’t just a two hour long video game cutscene, it’s a terrible two hour long video game cutscene. It’s Middle Earth Michael Bay. Endless interminable action sequences in which nothing of consequence happens. Infinite rows of cut n’ pasted minions of both good and evil hammer into each other, no one screams in pain only in rage as they clash with the enemy, nary a spot of blood stains the sanitized soil nor genuine emotion the hearts of the cardboard character cutouts of this soulless bore of a movie.
You can go read my review of Hobbit 2: Desolation Boogaloo if you like. All the same criticisms apply, if you swap out a few of the details and such. I’m not going to belabor the point by analyzing how Jackson misses the point for the sixth straight movie, how he bungles his way through what is inspired and cinematic text to produce Pirates of the Caribbean with orcs, how he cuts swathes of iconic material in order to make room for additions that serve nothing but his desire for nonsensical and idiotic action sequences, one-dimensional characters that are defined only by what random weapon they swing around the green screen, and the worst dialogue this side of George Lucas writing romance.
Peter Jackson, whatever he might claim to the contrary, has demonstrated time and again that he has nothing but contempt for the source material. He strip mines it for his own purposes, repeatedly missing any semblance of the tone, themes, or purposes of the narrative. Case in point: in this climactic movie of a story called “The Hobbit”, Bilbo has a grand total of about 25 lines of dialogue in the entire film. The first one doesn’t come until fifteen minutes in. The third through fifth come out in a torrent at about the forty-five minute mark. Forget all the serious elves, invented video game boss antagonists, multiple Aragon stand-ins, and at least three different insultingly bad attempts to ape the St. Crispin’s Day speech, even the slimy advisor whom is presumably supposed to be light comic relief (see again George Lucas, under the Jar-Jar file for how humorless his hijinks are) has more dialogue than the titular character.
But he has very bad teeth, because evil is bad for oral hygiene, while good characters always have sparkling whites in Jackson’s world. The amateurish application of symbol made me surprised that Thorin’s pile of gold wasn’t literally sculpted into a white whale.
Look, I like fantasy action movies, I really do. And despite the mountain of complaints I have about Jackson’s complete bastardization of every aspect of Tolkien across two different trilogies, let’s just set that aside for a second and look at the movie as if it were an original work. It’s even worse in that light.
It’s just hour after interminable hour of bloodless and pointless CGI combat, with no strategy, no discernible tactics, just hours of button-mashing in which named characters always dodge and parry and get slammed, bashed, and tossed with complete impunity since they have enough hit points that the low-level mobs they’re wading through can’t actually do damage even on a natural twenty.
Giant mountain goats appear out of nowhere in the middle of the battle, because some of the dwarves need to climb a mountain. Why? Um, because the boss fight is up there. Bro, do you even own an Xbox? Ringwraiths show up to have a kung-fu battle with Saruman and Elrond, and then Sauron shows up to growl until Galadriel monologues him away. Why? Fuck if I know. Enormous Dune-style burrowing worms burst out of the mountain-side to admit orc armies before disappearing. Where the hell did they come from, and why don’t they just eat the other armies? Oh I’m sorry, did you bring three whole brain cells to this fiasco? That’s just irresponsible.
There’s no story here. There’s no narrative that happens, not even a bad one. It’s just an eight year old pushing piles of action figures around a floor, yelling, now these two will fight, and then this one shows up, and then this one, and then the first three fight this one, and then forget about that and play with two specific figures on top of the dresser for a while, before zoooom the eagle action figures get tossed across the room to knock one of the plastic armies over like dominoes. Fuck this noise, it isn’t a movie, it’s just a kid with no imagination and an enormous budget shoving his toys around.
Nothing has made me happier than the knowledge that the Tolkien estate has refused to give the rights to any of the other satellite books of the Middle Earth world. No Silmarillion, no Children of Hurin, nothing. So Jackson can go spend the next two years making more elaborate versions of extended editions to his heart’s content, but he is never touching the rest of Middle Earth.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.