Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies": Pure Blasphemous Fun

 Now In Theaters

Oscar Nominations

Best Sound Editing

The inescapable question mark that has always loomed over The Battle of Five Armies was whether it would justify the splitting of Tolkien’s 300 page The Hobbit into three 150 minute films.  And the answer is, to no one’s real surprise, a resounding “No.”  At the end of the day, the extension of The Hobbit from two films into three was just as it appeared: a cash-motivated move to squeeze every last drop of potential still viable in this franchise.  As a result, we get the film that strays the most from Tolkien’s original work while paradoxically still trying to rely on fan-service to keep the diehards from crying too much foul.  And as a Tolkien fan, yeah, I’ll admit that I wish The Hobbit had been done better justice.  However, when I compare this film with its predecessor, The Desolation of Smaug, I find myself wondering if maybe the finale can at least justify the dragging middle chapter.

I actually quite liked An Unexpected Journey as an adaptation, and while I will acknowledge that Desolation of Smaug is at least a serviceable entry, it left me upset at the nonsensical and straight-up baffling changes being made to The Hobbit’s simple story for the sake of stretching it as much as possible.  However, where The Desolation of Smaug was more self-serious with its bastardization of Tolkien’s work, The Battle of Five Armies takes the gloves off and goes full bore into the territory of ridiculous spectacle.  Prior to Lord of the Rings, director Peter Jackson was known primarily for his low-budget action horror romps, similar to the likes of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films and no less in need of passion.  Five Armies feels like a return to that point of his career, except instead of buckets of blood, we have whatever CG monstrosities Jackson and crew can conjure with a seemingly limitless budget.

So even though the context for the ridiculous action setpieces feels a little silly and melodramatically contrived, the setpieces themselves are actually really fun to watch.  I think the prime demonstrative example comes in an early scene when Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman take on the nine Ringwraiths in hand-to-hand combat.  Sure, the scene is entirely unnecessary, and the melodramatic speechifying and blatant fan-service make its reason for existing about as transparent as glass, but I’d be lying if I didn’t enjoy watching it.  Jackson knows how to make overblown fight scenes interesting, something he respectably restrained himself from in making the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Here though, it’s clear that he’s just having fun, like a kid with his toys, and I can’t quite fault him for it.

Now, all the action spectacle does start to wear a little thin, given that the film is nearly two and a half hours long, with barely a scene to allow one to catch their breath.  But if I was going to watch one of The Hobbit films again, this would probably be the one: not because it has the best scripting, because let's face it, there are some holes dug by the middle film that are too deep to dig back out.  No, I'd watch it because the shaky plot is secondary to the ridiculous nature of what’s happening on-screen.  It may be blasphemy, but at least it’s a fun ride, and sometimes you just need a scene with a troll with maces for limbs.  All four of them.

Which was your favorite of The Hobbit trilogy?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this one twice! There was a battlepig! It made no sense whatsoever and I'm pretty sure I was supposed to feel something other than *eyeroll* about the romantic subplot and WHERE DID THE GOATS COME FROM? but I loved it for the same reason you did: the absurdity.

    It did make me want to go see Dracula Untold again though, so my taste may be suspect. ("These bats were bred for a single purpose: Forming a giant fist and punching an entire army!")