Before I begin, I’ll mention this now. The version I saw of this film was the 3-D HFR version, aka “high-frame rate”. A majority of films are shown at about 24 frames per second. It might sound like there’s a lot less film in the process, but 24 frames is perfect for cinema’s “epic” scale. “High Frame Rate” however, involves watching the film at 48 frames per second – a style that works really well for TV programs (primarily classic british comedies), but not in cinema. The only reason I saw the HFR version was because it was just starting, and the more cinematic version was about 90 minutes away…and my party already had Pizza Hut and Bratwurst…Right, onto the review.
By seeing this film, it will suggest to you that I’ve seen the other 2, and I have. On top of this, I thought the book was pretty good, and I say this in case I end up spoiling the 1st 2 in any way so, you’ve been warned if you haven’t seen them. What did I think of The Battle Of The Five Armies? Well…
The Five Armies starts off with Smaug torching Lake Town…and then Bard The Bowman kills him within the 1st 20 minutes. Since Smaug played such an important role in the book and an epic role in the previous film, this was a little disappointing. Afterwards the story centres around what would become a big final battle, 1 where Thorin’s greed for power, entitlement and riches gets the best of him, causing him to be an antagonist figure while the other dwarves and their burglar witness the change and don’t know what to do. Meanwhile, the people of Lake Town need the riches in the mountains to rebuild their lives, the Elf Army led by Legolas’ Dad Thrandull seeks a family treasure from within the mountain’s supply, Thorin’s cousin Dain Il Ironfoot (played by the legendary Billy Connolly) arrives with his army to help Thorin, and the Orc army, led by Azog the Defiler (The White Orc) tries to take over the world. It all leads to an enormous battle, primarily between the Orcs and the rest.
The film could be best described in several ways; namely it is the longest ending in the history of cinema, but my favourite 1s are “The Desolation Of Smaug .5” or “The Hobbit 2.5”, because when comparing the written material to the films, that’s basically what it is. It is the ending that ‘Smaug could have had, but didn’t, and showing us why creating a trilogy was a business/marketing decision rather than a particularly good cinematic/artistic decision. I’ll be perfectly honest with you all – compared to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and even the other 2 Hobbit movies, this is tripe! If you hated the ending in the Return Of The Ring that went on and on and on, you’re in for a shock, this is like a 2 hour version of that (only with more fighting). By adding the extra threats and side-stories to the trilogy, they decided to make Azog the main baddie in an attempt to make this look more exciting…but Azog sucks compared to Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug. It’s the truth. It’s like if Peter Pan had defeated Captain Hook and then Smee rose up to become the next captain and final villain. Azog isn’t even in The Hobbit book. They also throw in a battle where Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel and Radagast fight Sauron the Necromancer and the ghosts of the 9 men who would become the Nazgul. It’s suppose to help make the Lord Of The Rings set up make sense, but it really was just filler.
Anything else? Oh yes – watching this film in 48 frames per second was terrible. It would have been fine for a behind-the-scenes feature, but it felt like it took so much away. It didn’t look like a film, it was more like a TV show, or like watching cut scenes from a video game (especially a PC game)…I even said to myself “I would love to play this, but I can’t. It’s the actual movie!” Acting-wise I had no problem with the film because everybody was once again very good. Character-wise however, there was very little development. The Dwarves, who were better developed in the films than the books, were simply reduced to roles to advance the plot or to hang around to make up the numbers or to fill in the time, since this film is the shortest Middle Earth movie. Most of them barely said a word (again), and Kili’s fancy of Tauriel, the Jackson-created Elf, wasn’t exactly a sub-plot in ‘Love, Actually’. Bilbo’s scenes are much smaller this time, he still plays an important role, but the movie doesn’t centre around him very much. Is he still an amusing, stubborn, homely little hobbit? Yes! But we don’t see it very often here, which is sad.
The music by Howard Shore remains good, but this wasn’t as strong or memorable as previous films. The cinematography was very good, and the CGI would have looked very good…at 24 frames per second…with different lighting…or in a video game…I would love a Middle Earth game that looked this good….and the story was mostly mediocre, relying heavily on action more-so than writing.
Would I recommend seeing this film? If you watched the previous 2 films then fine, go ahead, finish the series and put your curiosities to rest. This is by far the worst of the Middle Earth films, and 1 that I feel would have been better off integrated into the 2nd film somehow. To those who gave this film a good rating, let me see your pockets and the results of your eye exam. Either way, I’ve seen this once, and its unlikely that I’ll ever see it again…oh, and within consistency of the LOTR trilogy, they messed up the ending. Watch and you’ll see, it’s a proper botch. Thank you Peter Jackson for providing 3 films that I fondly remember from my teenage years, especially the 4-disc extended DVD versions, but no…I would have much preferred to have seen Guillermo Del Toro’s interpretation than this.
Overall rating: **1/2 out of 5