Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

One of the big things about making the Hobbit movies is that they're working from a book that's really hard to adapt. A lot of the changes and additions they made to the source material might seem extraneous and even downright blasphemous but the movie is working from a book that doesn't really have that much of a story. There is definitely a story in Tolkien's The Hobbit, but the structure basically amounts to...just a bunch a random stuff happening. In the book, it always seems like the Goblins and the Orcs show up just to be dicks about it, so maybe some credit should be given for making the villains a more essential part to the story. This is why An Unexpected Journey got off to a bit of a rocky start, even if I still really enjoyed it. In fact, maybe this whole experience has been a little rocky from the start as it was hard to see where all of this extraneous bloat would be going.

But, if the series has been anything, they have at least been entertaining and fun to watch as nobody seems to know their craft of big giant battle scenes as well as Peter Jackson. In fact, one could probably look at these movies as nothing more than Jackson seeing how much left he could throw into this fantasy world of Middle Earth. Of course the goblin cave sequence would be nothing but silly, yet awesome light-hearted action. Of course they would adapt a simple scene of the Dwarves escaping by way of barrel riding into a full scale action scene involving kung-fu and heads getting cut off. And, much in the same way here, yeah, what took a couple of pages in the book has been blown up into a full feature length movie involving a battle of five armies. The final result of The Battle of the Five Armies will depend on how much you've been on board since the beginning of the whole Hobbit thing, but I can't say that I haven't at least been enjoying these movies by a lot.

Since The Desolation of Smaug ended on a cliff-hanger, The Battle of the Five Armies picks up right where the last movie ended. The dragon, Smaug, is terrorizing the people of Lake Town only to be taken down by The Bard. This part literally happens before the title of the movie is shown and before the actual story starts. The real story has the Dwarves reclaiming their mountain after Smaug's defeat only to have the leader of the group, Thorin Oakenshield, be overcome with greed. A lot of this has to do with some sort of dark energy that Smaug had left in the mountain. While this sort of trouble is going on, the people of Lake Town attempt to settle in the remains of the destroyed town next to the mountain in hopes that Thorin will keep his word on helping them out. Unfortunately, even when Lake Town has an army of Elves to coerce him to keep his word, Thorin is being kind of a douche and is willing to fight in order to keep his treasure. This is all happening while there is a looming threat of Orcs to make things even worse.

So, yeah! Going back and trying to describe the plot of this movie shows how complicated the series has actually gotten. Everything to this plot is the pay off to everything that has been set up in the previous movies. Not that it has been difficult to follow even with their being about three different plots going on as it all comes together pretty nicely. The reason why these movies have gotten pretty dense is how they could lead up to this epic battle without it seeming like something that comes out of nowhere as it does in the book. There's a reason why they had scenes of Gandalf investigating the return of Sauron only to find out that this is directly involved to the start of this epic battle.

And once the battle does come, the entire thing hits really hard. Jackson throws in just about everything he could think of in order to make this a one big, exciting war. However, it is all backed by some emotional key moments that keep the story going. The Hobbit of the story, Bilbo Baggins, seems to drift in and out of the background and almost seems unnecessary to the plot, but he actually turns out to be the key guy that holds the dwarves together and the one who helps them on the right path through some pretty effective scenes. Even the love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel, and Killi really comes into its own by the end of this movie. And, while I'm even having trouble telling you which dwarf is which, the more important key dwarves in the group finally do get a good payoff by the end of it all.

I'll admit that having the last movie ended where it did pissed me off as much as the last movie I saw where it did that(Catching Fire), but, now that it has all come together, I'm having trouble figuring out where you could have ended The Desolation of Smaug in a way that would make it feel like a complete story. In fact, these last two movies could be viewed as being one long giant movie as there are a lot of callbacks and even minor payoffs that were setup in the last movie. Of course, this might make people think these films should have just been two movies in the first place but a lot of the additions to the stories from the books feel like they are needed in order to make it feel like an over arching story and not just something where a bunch of stuff happens which was the sort of feeling I got from the book. How well these additions were done is up for debate, but I'm hard pressed to think of a better way to do it while still retaining the iconic events from the original source material.

By the end of it all, no, these movies are not going to live up to the legacy of The Lord of the Rings movies that started it all. However, it has been fun and I'm glad I got a chance to see these made in the first place. I've seen this movie two times at this time of writing this and I have to admit that I think I actually liked it better the second time. This might not be my favorite of The Hobbit movies, but the conclusion is satisfying enough and the battle sequence is just down right fun. It's been a good run and I can't wait to see what Jackson has in store for the next Tintin movie.

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