The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

 

Let’s get this out of the way up front. The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies is not at good as the first 2 Hobbit films. But it provides much to enjoy and, as it’s the end of the trilogy, it delivers resolution.

2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey had a wonderful bit of light-hearted fun as the dwarves engaged Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to be their burglar. The mix of hilarity and peril was in perfect balance. The scene with Bilbo and Gollum (Andy Serkis) trading riddles is classic. Director Peter Jackson created a film that was beautiful to look at and set the table for further adventures.

2013’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ramped up the peril and introduced new characters, including the fearsome dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Oliver Bloom) are brought aboard to provide eye candy. And the Laketown village was visually stunning.

The start of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings Smaug out of his cave to attack the Laketown village with fire and taunts. Without spoiling, I’ll just say that the dragon is decisively neutralized.

The film’s main course is battles aplenty. But there’s a problem: when all the various factions face off, you can’t always tell who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. It’s like in Syria, where so many factions are trying to gain traction. But, as in Syria where everybody opposes ISIS, so too in Hobbit III, everybody hates this one particular group of Orcs.

The final showdown up on the mountain involves several fierce one-on-one hand-to-hand battles. It’s classic, violent, enthralling stuff that provides the film’s real soul.

Afterward, Bilbo and Gandolph (Ian McKellan) hoof it back home where the locals are busy auctioning off Bilbo’s goods, presuming him dead. A brief coda flashes forward and provides a satisfying conclusion for the hobbit, setting him up for what’s to come in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One could argue that lengthy battle scenes with director Jackson’s terrific effects are what the audience wants. And one could reasonably argue that it’s appropriate for the Hobbit films to get progressively darker. But I still like the first 2 better.

 

 

 

 

My Top Ten Movies for 2012

  1. The Dark Knight Rises—The story, the soundtrack, the villains, the heroes, the emotion. TDKR is satisfyingly stunning on so many levels.
  2. Argo—An amazing true story (with Hollywood embellishment) that fires up our American pride, from a period when our country was humbled. Efficient storytelling at its best.
  3. Silver Linings Playbook—An adult son with a mental illness moves back in with his sixty-something parents, following his court-ordered hospitalization. It’s funny and heartbreaking, often within the same scene.
  4. Moonrise Kingdom—From the wild imagination of Wes Anderson comes a story of very young love. Luckily for him (and for us), the two rookie actors who star in the key roles are fantastic.
  5. Django Unchained—Quentin Tarantino rewrites history again with a visit to the antebellum South where he fearlessly takes on the topic of slavery. Inspired performances from an impressive cast take this over-the-top story to spectacular heights.
  6. The Hobbit—This fantasy has a perfect mix of humor and peril. Martin Freeman brings a proper bemusement to Bilbo. The 48 frames per second technology takes cinema to a new level.
  7. The Hunger Games—The novelist’s compelling story is brought to life by a talented filmmaker and an excellent cast. Much of our modern culture is reflected in the film’s characters and events.
  8. Skyfall—The best and most memorable Bond movie in years, if not decades. To breathe this much new life into a 50-year-old franchise is an impressive feat. A toast (martini, of course) to all involved.
  9. Life of Pi—One of the most gorgeous films ever made. The story is good, but the images will endure. To borrow a cliché, this movie truly is “a feast for the eyes.”
  10. Hope Springs—One of the many good movies for older audiences in 2012.  A couple played by two of our best actors, Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep, visit a counselor who helps them communicate again. After a four-year sex drought, their clumsy efforts to reconnect are funny and poignant.

My Top Ten Movies for 2012 list does not include those that will not be released in St. Louis before year’s end, such as Zero Dark Thirty or Amour. And, while Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln was one of the year’s best acting performances, the movie itself was flawed: too long, too ponderous and too theatrical.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit has many great things going for it. Especially thrilling is the 48 frames per second technology, which provides images that are incredibly real looking.

Of course, what we see onscreen is unreal: Dwarves with huge feet. Creatures that are figments of creative imaginations. Settings that are other-worldly. And, our old weird little friend Gollum.

Unlike the three Lord of the Rings movies, The Hobbit is funny. Small chuckles and big laughs abound in a story that is also filled with peril and adventure. Yes, there were small bits of humor in the LOTR films, but The Hobbit is (as its director Peter Jackson has said in interviews) whimsical.

Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit. He brings an air of complete bemusement to the role. He vaguely resembles Martin Short, but Freeman appears frequently dumbfounded by plot developments. (Short would, I think, always be on the verge of a snicker, I must say.)

The entire movie has moments to savor, but a favorite is the scene where Bilbo falls into an impossibly deep hole and meets Gollum. It’s a case of “Finders Keepers” when Bilbo picks up a certain ring that has fallen from Gollum’s keep. As the two trade riddles, both the character Gollum and the actor playing him (the talented Andy Sorkis) are revealed to be strong enough to carry an entire movie. (Maybe after the three Hobbit movies are done?)

The great Ian McKellan is back as Gandalf and even he seems a bit less severe than in the LOTR triology.

Here’s one where real parental guidance comes into play. It’s PG-13, but okay for most 9, 10, 11 & 12 year olds, in my opinion. If your kids have enjoyed the later Harry Potter movies with no ill effects, they should be able to handle The Hobbit.

As for its length, that may be another issue. While the movie flew by for me, its 2:45 run time may be a problem for the more restless among us.

I liked the LOTR movies, but I love The Hobbit. Yep, it’s a “must see!”