Film Pulse Score

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Release Date: December 17, 2014
Director: Peter Jackson
MPAA Rating: PG-13

I’m going to have to address this. I didn’t like Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy. There, I said it. I didn’t like it. I hold The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in high regard and consider it the best trilogy I’ve ever witnessed. (While I love the original Star Wars trilogy, I had many issues with Return of the Jedi). I have nothing bad to say about any chapter in Jackson’s original trilogy. While this review is for the latest, and hopefully last, entry in the Middle Earth saga, my issues with the film cannot be addressed without mentioning from whence the source of my displeasure comes.

After witnessing the fall of the dragon Smaug, Bilbo and company become involved in a vast war involving multiple armies that seek to claim the Lonely Mountain and the treasure within. My issue is that Jackson and company had a whole film to set up the characters and the story but failed to do that in An Unexpected Journey, even with characters with whom we were already familiar. The Desolation of Smaug continued that trend with a failed attempt at developing a romance between a dwarf and elf; no doubt meant to evoke a similar Aragorn/Arwen romantic angle. Despite that, I still felt no connection with any of the characters who are now in their second film.

So we come to The Battle of the Five Armies, the trilogy’s concluding chapter, and because I felt no emotional connection to anyone, I therefore felt nothing when bad things start happening. Bottom line was I just didn’t care, which is something I could never say about the original trilogy. Right off the bat, it felt like this one was in trouble. The previous film ended with a cliffhanger as Smaug began to descend upon the lake town. It’s not beyond reason that one would expect a big battle at the beginning of the new film but instead they get a pre-title sequence that is over before it really gets going. We waited a year for this, and that’s all we get? Why didn’t they just leave that sequence at the end of the second chapter? It just felt tacked on.

And speaking of tacked on, I’m not well versed in all things Tolkien, but the whole plot that drives this concluding chapter felt tacked on. I’m not sure how much of this was culled from the appendices, which is where Jackson said he was pulling many plot points, but it felt more like it was thrown in to give the audience more bang for their buck.

The film really suffers from a “been there, done that” feeling. We’ve seen epic-scale battles like this before, but they don’t hold the same weight or impact as say the Battle of Pelennor Fields. There they were, fighting for the fate of all Middle Earth. In this one, they’re fighting over gold. Hmmm…might as well have just called itself the Trade Federation and used aggressive negotiations.

The first film opened with elderly Bilbo, so it’s no surprise that this one ends the same way. However, the moments that reference the original trilogy seem a bit forced in there, à la the Star Wars prequels. On top of this, I couldn’t even remember most of the events of the previous two films. A few times I was lost trying to remember how characters ended up where they were.

The visual effects are at times good but surprisingly have a very significant CGI look to them when compared to the stellar work done on the original films. I didn’t bother seeing the new film in High Frame Rate as I feel that cheapens the look of the film and makes the CGI look even worse than it already was.

I would have to say that this was the worst of the three only because the issues I had with the trilogy as a whole are compounded here. Because I didn’t feel anything for anyone, I didn’t really care who lived or died. When the big heroic moments occurred, I merely sat there ambivalent toward it all. Characters I adored in the originals felt like a distraction in this one.

The epic battles served as spectacle with no emotional resonance. I was incredibly moved during the end credits of the concluding chapter of The Lord of the Rings as Annie Lennox sang over them. The moment the credits began to roll on The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, I was on my phone looking at Facebook while Billy Boyd sang. This just goes to show you can go there and back again, but you can only catch lightning in a bottle once.


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