Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Peter Jackson's bloated trilogy finally wheezes to an end.


Warner Bros.

The concluding installment of Peter Jackson's misbegotten Hobbit trilogy is an action-packed muddle. There are some terrific shots and scenes, and of course the digital effects are top-of-the-line. But the story, a continued inflation of J.R.R. Tolkien's slender 1937 novel, remains emptily overstuffed; and the endless noisy contentions between the titular five armies (or four, or possibly six, maybe more) soon challenge our ability to care about what's going on.

The movie's most effectively spectacular sequence comes right at the beginning, which takes up where the previous film, The Desolation of Smaug, left off. Smaug, the fire-breathing dragon who speaks with the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, has been forcibly evicted from the gold-filled dwarf mountain of Erebor and is now winging his way toward the nearby human settlement of Laketown. Here we have Jackson at his best, deploying meticulous production design and soaring camerawork to create a landscape of flaming devastation. This is exciting stuff, and we're primed for more of it. Unfortunately, the director proceeds to give us way too much, and the picture quickly begins to sag.

It should be noted that Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the adventuring hobbit at the center of Tolkien's tale, sits out much of this picture, and that the beloved wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen, as always) is similarly sidelined—at the beginning he's been imprisoned by the evil Sauron (a character not yet named in Tolkien's book) and is being menaced by the dark lord's wispy minions, the Nazgûl. This leaves us to focus on the Dwarf king Thorin (Richard Armitage), enthroned amid his vast dunes of gold coins and whatnot, who is slowly going mad in his search for the ambiguously important Arkenstone. Thorin's recovered treasure has drawn the covetous attention of various other tribes, and before long a contingent of elves arrives, led by the serenely courageous Thranduil (Lee Pace), who's intent on retrieving some sacred elvish gems that had also been appropriated by Smaug.

The Elves put this quest aside to help defend the Dwarves and the besieged humans against an army of hideous orcs, led by the snarling Azog (Manu Bennett), who is in turn intent on… well, wasting everybody in sight. There are also armies—or what seem to be armies—of eagles and bats and, for one brief, puzzling moment, monster earthworms that might have been airlifted in from David Lynch's Dune.

While all of this is going on, we get a continuation of the drippy love story involving the stalwart dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) and the warrior elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). The tiresome wizard Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) also puts in an appearance, along with his ridiculous rabbit wagon; and there's some leaping about by Orlando Bloom's über-blond Legolas as well. Thorin's ancillary dwarves (Bifur, Bofur, Bombur and so forth) are also on hand, for the usual no reason at all.

Once again, though, Jackson gives us a lot to look at. The film's environments—a gothic proliferation of stone stairways inside Erebor, the ramshackle docks and dwellings of Laketown—fill every corner of the screen with wondrous detail. And there's a transfixing scene in which two characters confront each other on a frozen waterway; when the ice cracks, one of them falls through, and we see his body drifting by beneath the translucent floe. It's a brilliant conception, of a sort otherwise largely absent from this movie.

Five Armies is the shortest of the Hobbit films (just under two and a half hours), but it's still too long. And taken together with its predecessors, it once more fails to justify the existence of this whole bloated endeavor. Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies, with their classic moral clarity, gave us a fully realized world; further elaboration has served no purpose. The ending of this picture has been strenuously tailored to hook up with the beginning of the Rings saga, but the resulting comparison of the two trilogies is likely to prove ruinous for this one.

NEXT: Friday Funnies: Gas Price Crisis

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I preferred the second movie. There was some over acting in certain scenes and I don’t understand the giant worms. Over all it was worth going just to watch smaug tear shit up.

    1. The problem with the giant worms is that the orcs should have used them to fight too, or just burrow straight into the mountain.

  2. It’s ironic because, back in the day, before the conception of today’s special effects, Tolkien said his works were not filmable. Now we have the special effects ability to do anything, and the stories are pretty much gone. TOO MUCH special effects has lost the story.

    1. the cartoon versiom beats the hell out of jacksons treatment

  3. I just like the idea of battle pigs, battle goats and battle bats.
    Also: “As God as my witness, I thought bears could fly.”

  4. How many amateurish slow motion sequences and long close-ups of blank-faced actors are there? Without those things, how will I know when something dramatic is happening?!?!

  5. The big problem with these Hobbit movies (and most movies in general) is that they are tailored toward the overly-broad “OOOOHHHHHH!!!!” “AHHHHHHHHHHH!!” dynamics that some studio suit thinks will sell tickets in Guangzhou and Peoria equally.

    So you have these ridiculous 100% CGI things going on – Hobbits on some bridge that is catapulted 8000 metres in a corkscrew pattern yet lands right-side up and no one is hurt.


    Then the Jar-Jarification. Then the “create character so the little 10 year-old girl can have a hero for her lunch box. Then create a love story involving said character and.. a DWARF(?!)

    Utter and total incoherent mess. And I am not even going to get to the two daft female writing partners of Jackson, who were on and on in the DVD commentary for ROTK about how Shelob’s tunnel was supposed to be a vagina or some such. The minute I heard that I had zero hope for these people being turned loose on subsequent Tolkein material.

    1. who were on and on in the DVD commentary for ROTK about how Shelob’s tunnel was supposed to be a vagina or some such

      Haha, seriously? I do NOT want to see the vaginas they are basing that one.

      1. Cobwebs in a vagina?

        1. It’s not a very well maintained vagina…we’re talking the granddaddy of all yeast infections. Or would that be the grandmammy of all yeast infections?

        2. Maybe Pelosi?

      2. Was Shelob a giant crab then and not a spider?

      3. It was well on ten years ago, but yes, seriously. There was a roughly five minute discussion about how the “tunnel” was supposed to create some Freudian sense of dread and whatnot.

        If you watch the ROTK you will never view Gollum’s 15 repetitions of the word “tunnel” the same way again.

      4. I do NOT want to see the vaginas they are basing that one.

        Clearly it was based on Hillary Clinton’s.

        “This snizz hasn’t seen action in over 30 years!”

  6. Rip on the films all you want, but the turning a 250 page book into a 9 hour movie isn’t a legitimate criticism. Plenty of movies have been made or inspired by short stories or novellas. Are the movies bloated? That’s for you to decide – but the length of the book is completely irrelevant.

    1. I think Jackson did as good of a job as anyone could have done filming what are unfilmable books.

      My only problem with Jackson is that he misses one of the biggest parts of Tolkien’s genius, his understanding of evil. Jackson too many times leaves the impression that evil is this magical force that forces people to follow it. Tolkien had a much better understanding of evil than that. Evil in Tolkien’s world corrupts men by tempting them and appealing to their vanity and best intentions. The Ring doesn’t reach out and enslave you. The Ring gets you to enslave yourself, by appealing to your vanity and weakness. A good example of how the Ring corrupts is Bilbo using it to disappear at the birthday party in the Fellowship of the Rings. “Come on Bilbo, don’t you want to impress your friends and make this the most memorable party ever?”

      Jackson always makes it seem like Frodo has the ring forced on him rather than wanting the ring. He wants the ring. Sure, he tells himself he is going to take it and throw it into Mordor and he leaves and goes out on his own at the end of the Fellowship because he doesn’t want it corrupting anyone else. Bullshit, he is slowly being corrupted by the ring because it is tempting his vanity and weakness. Indeed, he succumbs to it in the end. That aspect is not played up enough. To much of the time people in the movies are portrayed as victims of evil. No, in Tolkiens world they are victims of their own faults.

      1. Such a nuanced view of evil doesn’t square with our post-9/11 mindset.

        Unfortunately, I’m not being funny…

        1. I ranted the other day about how I couldn’t stand the way Jackson filmed Frodo and Sam. It wasn’t so much that they were emotional, it was that they came across as victims caught up in the situation. I don’t think that is true. The Hobbits are dimunitive creatures caught up in a world full of monsters, but they are not passive victims. They are creatures of action and courage. They are very clever and understand how to survive in such a world. Frodo and especially Sam where men of action. Jackson films them as more passive victims. He does a much better job filming Merry and Pippin. They have a mischievous quality about them that keeps them from coming across as weak the way Frodo and Sam do.

          1. Elijah Woods was way too young to be cast in the part of Frodo. The actor who was cast as Aragorn was likewise much too young.

            1. I agree with you about Woods. The problem with Aragorn is that while he was older than Vigo Mortensen, he was also a serious warrior with incredible physical prowess. You can’t cast an old guy, like say Sean Connery, and have him be believable as a warrior. You have to have a young guy on screen. Aragorn, I think had to be young for the character to work on film, even though you are correct him being young is not consistent with his character in the book.

              1. I was thinking Harrison Ford (back when the movies were filmed, it made sense). Connery was the actor I thought should have been Gandalf–at the time. Choosing Paul Chauvelin, however, was a brilliant bit of casting.

            2. Viggo Mortensen was I think about the right age for Aragorn. He was about 43 at the time of filming which fits well with how a man of the West would age.

              The character was about 90 years old at the time of the Fellowship, and he reigned as King for a further 120 years.

              1. Drat you for being right, DaveSs. I’ll have to drop that argument, then; 43 is about the right age.

                Still doesn’t change the fact that Viggo portrayed Aragorn as a whiny wimp.

                Everyone was too huggy, as well.

                Sean Bean as Boromir, however? Almost as brilliant as Magneto as Gandalf.

                1. Aragorn was raised in the household of Elrond, so you have to expect him to pick up some Elvish traits.

                2. Sean Bean should have been Aragorn.

                  1. Wouldn’t work…Aragorn survives through the movies.

      2. This.

        One of the biggest problems with Jackson’s movement is his mis-handling or exclusion of much of Tolkien’s subtler themes. Things like the right to rule, when violence is justified, and the maturation of simple folk. Actually, there’s nothing in the entire series that would make a person of literature proud, every theme that Jackson does put into the movies, he beats you over the head with.

        One of the many characters he mis-represents is Boromir. Sean Bean is a great actor, but he has neither the look, nor the mannerisms of Boromir (the second may be due to script issues). The stereotypical viking Boromir in the old LOTR cartoon is ridiculous, but its still closer to the real Boromir, because you actually LIKE him. You don’t like Sean Bean’s character, he’s sinewy little slinker. But Boromir is a strong and open man who saves lives in several occasions, and his fall and redemption is that much more poignant.

        Which brings up another point. Jackson made some bad decisions, but he also made some incomprehensible ones. I’m speaking about the scenes in the book which were absolutely MADE for cinema. Boromir’s death scene is much more effective in the book, and there is no reason for Jackson to have made it different. The real meeting between Gandalf and the Witch King is begging, just begging, to be adapted, but Jackson opted for an anti-climactic scene that didn’t even make it into the theatrical cut.

        1. But mostly what ruined the movies is the distance from the characters, a distance created by reliance on CGI and cinematic cliches. Battles look fake, have that stupid Dragonball-Z look and feel (mentioned by someone above), and because of that, never feel threatening. Never feel scary, or hardly even tense. Its just empty spectacle. The balrog looks very, very stupid, and very, very fake. Again, more spectacle than scary. And the elves, don’t get me started on the elves.

          In the books, the high-elves are not brain-dead, tripped-out zombie freaks. They have nuances, and power. They live in an almost unimaginably beautiful land, but that land isn’t stale. Its not Heaven.

          Finally, if the point of the book is the maturation of the Hobbits (and it is) then leaving out the Scouring is an unforgivable sin.

          But the real sin is that a better filmmaker will never be able to touch this material again in our lifetime.

  7. And here I was hoping they could make a movie about a giant battle good.

  8. I loved the LOTR movies (even if they left out Tom Bombadil). The Hobbit movies have made a mockery of what is a treasure of children’s literature. The Hobbit is by far the more difficult book to make into a movie – as such Peter Jackson ended up merely riffing off of it but creating something else entirely (and something far inferior).

    1. Serious question, why do people love Bambadil so much and regret that part not being in the movie? It is a nice part of the book, granted. But really what is Bambadil? He is nature as far as I can see. The ring corrupts everyone because it appeals to their desire and vanity. Banbadil doesn’t have any of that. He just is. He is like a Tolkien Buddha figure. When he puts the ring on, it doesn’t even make him disappear. He is never listed as a “ring barer” at the end of the book.

      It is an interesting concept, but really not much that propels the plot happens during his part of the book. I really don’t understand why so many people thought it was such a big deal to cut him out.

      1. This. The more regrettable omission is the Scouring of the Shire. It seems to me to be the point of the story. That all four of the hobbits are now among the Wise because of their experiences and not just plucky underdogs and comic relief anymore. Particularly groanworthy that the reason it was left out was that Jackson simply does not like that part of the book.

        1. Leaving out the scourging of the Shire was a huge sin. I always laughed at the JV nature of the orcs who got stuck taking the Shire. If you were not good enough to join the hoards of Mordor, you could always catch on with Saruman’s armies. If you were too pathetic even for that, you ended up on Shire duty.

      2. I never got the appeal of Bombadil. I have read the books more times than I care to admit and from first reading to most recent I am always thinking “right, then, let’s get on to Bree already.”

        The Harvard Lampoon parody of LOTR did Bombadil well, though. Therein he was a walking pharmacy named “Tim Benzedrino” and Goldberry was his hippy pill-head companion.

    2. I think that expectations are a bit too high for the Hobbit movies. LOTR was amazing, and Jackson did an incredible job of bringing it to life onscreen without compromising to modern expectations (I’m sure on more than one occasion some studio jackass recommended adding a jive talking black character that “younger audiences could relate to”).

      As for Tom Bombadil, I think Jackson was spot-on to keep him out of the movies. He didn’t make any sense in the book, and would have made less sense onscreen.

      1. He didn’t make any obvious sense. Some people look at him as like neutral Switzerland in World War II. But that is too literal. Tolkien always said t hat he never mean the book to be any kind of allegory to real events.

        He doesn’t seem to be a Maiar like Gandolf, though maybe he is. All of the other Maiar are busy trying to save or control the world. And they are all susceptible to the ring’s powers where he is not. Like I say above, he seems to be some kind of personification of nature. The ring destroys nature but it never corrupts it. Nature just is.

    3. I don’t really see how the Hobbit would be harder to make.

      After encounter the trolls there are enough adventure tales in the book that many of Jackson’s alterations were really unnecessary.

      The tough part I think is how you get from Bag End to the trolls, but I think Jackson did a decent job of that, minus the inclusion of orcs finding them.

  9. I really liked all three movies.I don’t see what all the fuss is over. The production values are top notch, the acting is great and the story is pretty darned good.

    1. Tauriel, Azog, anime/comic book fight sequences, and turning a two part movie into a trilogy.

      1. Long sequence of Tauriel and Legolas csually slaughtering orcs on such a way that makes the damn things look pathetic rather than threatening.

    2. Legolas running up that falling tower…

    3. Thanks for stopping by, Peter Jackson.

  10. I much preferred the Hobbit trilogy to the Lord of the Rings. Jackson’s mishandling of Treebeard and Faramir were just too much for me to say I liked LotR.

  11. No alt-text. The ring is corrupting us all, already,.

  12. I don’t typically pay attention to who’s the director, what their styles are, etc. I just don’t.

    BUT – when someone mentioned that Jackson did “King Kong”, it allll made sense. Cause I fucking HATED that movie, and it was WAY too long, and it sucked in general.

    Now, not even Jackson can fuck up “the Hobbit” for me, and I’ve generally enjoyed the movies, and am definitely seeing this with my son next week – Christmas tradition since LOTR started. BUT – now I understand better why there SO damned long and…so on. At least the spec effects are pretty decent.

    Plus – Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen are awesome, Orlando Bloom’s not a wanker for once, what’s-her-bitch from LOST is tolerable, etc. So…

    God damn, King Kong sucked balls…

    1. Martin Freeman and McKellen make the movie. I am with you. I like them.

  13. I find somewhat amusing that Mr. Jackson took some material from an old Rush song.


  14. I looked at the paycheck that said $4961 , I accept …that…my neighbours mother woz like they say actually making money part-time on there computar. . there dads buddy haz done this for under twelve months and just cleared the loans on their house and purchased a brand new Nissan GT-R: .
    try this site and free register ——— http://www.jobsfish.com

  15. Saw this opening day with my son. I liked the movie but it has issues (as most do). I did find myself feeling like it was the longest one (dragging) even though it was the shortest.

    I’ve read the Hobbit probably 20 times. I would have loved if the movie followed the book and been 2 1/2 hours long. One movie. The extra stuff isn’t needed. I know (or think I know) why a lot was included.

    There are a couple of things that really bothered me:
    1. Orcs, goblins, and trolls are way to easy to be killed – killed by a head butt, come on.
    2. Love story – no freaking way, not needed and useless
    3. The melted gold statue – complete crap

    The most awesome thing:
    Smaug at the start of the movie burning the town – what a great scene.

  16. my roomate’s ex-wife makes $60 /hr on the computer . She has been unemployed for 7 months but last month her payment was $12996 just working on the computer for a few hours. read the full info here …….
    ???????? http://www.paygazette.com

  17. I wish they had stuck with the real makeup-and-plaster orcs from the original trilogy rather than the cartoonish CGI they used for the Hobbit.

  18. “The greatest adventure, starts with a dream…”

  19. Although I love his works, it would have been nice for Jackson to base a single film on The Hobbit book.

  20. 1 classic book doesn’t have enough material for 3 movies? No problem, our writers are just as good as Tolkien. The gall. Also call me intolerant if you like, but a relationship between a dwarf and elf just isn’t natural.

  21. Sad thing is, the math never added up.

    For “The Lord of the Rings,” Jackson used 3 movies to realize 6 books (the “Trilogy” is actually a Sextology(?)- 6 Books commonly printed in 3 Volumes. There are a few odd inserts for some bizarre reason, and other interesting things missing, for perhaps the same bizarre reason. . . but it basically works.

    “The Hobbit” is only 1 book, one volume – and a much slimmer book to boot – it could have been done, PROPERLY, in one film. Basically, Jackson took a short story and gulled people into buying 2 movies worth of invented nonsense, totally unrelated to the book.
    The “Hobbit” movies are “The Hobbit” in name only, much like the first “Starship Troopers.” A smattering of a fucking *Great* book mixed into a mess of made-up crap.

    Not sure I even want to see the last 2. . .

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.