UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ is over-the-top and cheesy, but Tolkien fans should see it

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” has more sustained fight sequences and bombastic CGI than the comparable “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” but it lacks the latter’s emotional engagement. Still, lovers of Middle Earth, fantasy, and action will get something out of it. 

The movie picks up after the cliffhanger of the second installment, with Smaug immediately decimating Lake Town. Benedict Cumberbatch’s sinister voice over continues to fit the part. Luke Evans, as Bard the Bowmen, duels the dragon from a lone tower above the burning houses in a rapturous moment of CGI achievement. 

The spacial vastness between the New Zealand landscape, stylized Middle-Earth architecture, and character interactions makes the setting conducive to 3D cinema.That aside, the general cinematography is compositionally beautiful and a strongpoint.

The eponymous battle is 45 minutes long, among extensive combat elsewhere. Without the urgency and gravity of Return of the King, where the entire free world was at stake, the constant action can be draining. It’s more visceral when the heroes fight for survival, not the monetary accumulation of dragon’s gold. 

The audience is served new tricks to remain excited through the battle length; a speckle of humor, or never-before-seen creature appearances. Director Peter Jackson is good for interspersing tenseness with fun, here as dramatic irony, an unscrupulous sidekick Alfrid (Ryan Gage), or affable dwarves wielding Scottish brogues. One new creature is so big and physiologically out of place, it could’ve been grafted off of “Star Wars.” We can wonder where the influence of producer Guillermo del Toro’s lies. 

Parts of the movie come across as either mishandled or formulaic, like the love triangle between fan favorite Legolas (Orlando Bloom), dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner), and elvish guar Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). The emotive acting never fully overcomes the throwaway dialogue.  

Melodrama failing to make its mark was a trend. During a culmination of the tension between Legolas and his father, the audience in the theater literally burst out laughing at how cheesy and out-of-touch the interaction was. Extended closeups of gazing characters with hair blowing in the wind are spots where the running time of 144 minutes could have been slimmed. 

Remember that a single book was split into three long movies. Controversially, the character Tuariel is original to The Hobbit films and the main antagonist, Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett), was drawn from the obscurity of an appendix. Many fans will continue to find the liberty Jackon took with the source material to be off-putting. Yet, meta-textual bones were thrown.

On the list of noteworthy performances are Luke Evans, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, and Martin Freeman as Bilbo, with these last two making convincing the development of their characters.

Thorin’s greed drives him temporarily to paranoia and forgetting the strong sense of loyalty the 13 members of the Company of Dwarves exemplify. Bilbo changes into adventurous hobbit, though he still appreciates the concept of home and watching the trees grow. 

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” completes Jackson’s magical adaptation of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien with a bittersweet goodbye to the world and characters of Middle Earth. Leading into a scene from the “Fellowship of the Ring,” an aged Bilbo caresses his golden keepsake before exuberantly greeting a knocking Gandalf at the door, and soon after, together they will learn of its dark nature.