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The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

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In his remake of King Kong, Peter Jackson dragged out the big ape’s death so long it felt like a lifetime. At the time, it merely seemed like a lapse of taste. In hindsight, it seems like the beginning of a whole new career characterized by megalomania, greed, one-upmanship, self-indulgence, and bad taste. It was just the first symptom of the dragon sickness that has now consumed him.

The Battle of Five Armies begins with Smaug giving Laketown the Dresden treatment, then moves on to a grand battle between elves, orcs, dwarves, and men, with some birds and bears and bats and wizards thrown in. There is also a battle of Sauron and the nine spectral Nazgûl against Saruman, Galadriel, and Elrond. In short, the movie is mostly fights and special effects: beautifully made, occasionally memorable, but empty overall.

Whether I recommend it or not makes no practical difference. If you have seen the first two movies, of course you will see this one. Peter Jackson Inc. is banking on it, and therein lies the rub. (If you have not seen the first two films it will make no sense.)

As I noted in my reviews of the first two movies, The Hobbit is a children’s novel that is shorter than any of the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings. It could be told as a single two hour movie. But why settle for just one billion-dollar movie, when you can mutilate the book, turn it into three two-and-a-half hour movies, and rake in three times the gold? Jackson merely had to pad out the story with new characters, new scenes, and new subplots, all of them paper-thin, manipulative, and melodramatic. He also added new battles, new chases, and new narrow escapes, all of which are spectacular to watch but about as realistic as Road Runner cartoons. The net effect is uninvolving.

To make matters worse, much of the new material is derivative of The Lord of the Rings. Either our filmmaker lacked inspiration, or it was simply an occasion for Jackson to one-up himself. You thought the crumbling Bridge of Khazad-dûm was cool in The Fellowship of the Ring? Well, wait until you see the falling tower in The Battle of Five Armies. Did you like the orc Aufmarsch from Minas Morgul in The Return of the King? Well, something all too similar (but less spectacular) awaits you here. Like the sandworms of Arrakis? Wait till you see the wereworms of Middle Earth. Did you like Galadriel’s dark queen tantrum in Fellowship? Well, she tops that here too. Etc., etc. Unfortunately, when you combine derivativeness and one-upmanship, the result is parody.

Finally, as Kevin MacDonald pointed out in a review of The Hobbit’s first installment, Peter Jackson has caved in to political correctness. In The Lord of the Rings, he was faithful to Tolkien’s vision, portraying the peoples of Middle Earth as white and the human and non-human hosts of Sauron as non-white. In the first Hobbit movie, however, Jackson introduces white-skinned (and even blue-eyed) orcs and goblins. In the second film he includes non-whites—Asians and blacks or Papuans—among the citizens of Laketown.

In the new film, the women and children of Laketown—like those of Rohan in The Two Towers—are barricaded in a hall while their men fight. This, of course, makes sense, because biologically speaking, men are more expendable than women in a fight for survival. In the new film, however, a mannish suffragette rallies the women to go off and die with the men. At least the connection between feminism and racial suicide is relatively clear here. (And before you remind me of how Eowyn disguised herself as a man and went into battle in The Return of the King, let me remind you that Athena, Joan of Arc, and Eowyn are exceptions, not rules, and exceptions should never become the rule.)

When the characters are not scurrying around fighting one another, The Battle of Five Armies dwells at length—but without depth or a hint of self-knowledge—on how greed corrupts integrity. The whole wretched trilogy is ample proof of that.


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  1. Posted December 19, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Here is something far worse… the first “animated” version of The Hobbit, done to fulfill a contract.

  2. SWPL2
    Posted December 19, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    “At least the connection between feminism and racial suicide is relatively clear here.”

    Nice zinger. That was laugh out loud- worthy.

    Two films really would have been perfect. It would still have allowed Peter Jackson to indulge in a lot of stretching, but would have spared the audience the weariness that sets in a soon as yet another improbable escape and CGI sequence.

    And yes, I’ll see number three, probably this week.

  3. Daniel
    Posted December 19, 2014 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I won’t be bothering. The first two were bad enough.
    And I absolutely love the original trilogy of Lord of the Rings films and Tolkien’s books.
    So I’m just going to pretend these movies don’t exist.

    One of the worst thing about these prequels is the awful, horrible coloring. I assume it’s because they were made for 3D. Everything is either a plastic looking blue, sickly yellow or garish green. Add in all the fake looking CGI and the whole thing is ugly and dispiriting.
    And the original trilogy, shot on film, was so earthy and beautiful.

    Here’s what I think happened.
    Jackson wants to make huge films but hates working in Hollywood. So he’s used the reputation gained from the LotR films to establish a big, state of the art movie-making studio in New Zealand. But it’s expensive. Very expensive. He directly and indirectly employs many thousands of people. So he needs to have big hit movies to keep the whole thing going.

    The Hobbit movies were guaranteed to be successful. An obvious choice. But the Hollywood end, the financiers, insisted they be in 3D. Jackson, perhaps with misgivings, agreed and then decided to go the whole hog and make these movies almost entirely out of CGI. He decided to use the opportunity to fit out his studio with even more high tech equipment.

    The problem is the whole thing is a disaster. The movies look REVOLTING. They’re too long. You don’t care about anything because nothing feels real. And by trying to join the story with the already made LotR films, he’s even managed to damage (somewhat) the integrity of his original achievement.

    I suspect he probably knows these movies don’t compare to the original trilogy.
    I hope he abandons 3D, stops overdoing the CGI, and makes a big fantasy or science fiction movie that feels real.

    In any case, I’ll always appreciate the Lord of the Rings movies. Their call to the abused and weighed-down, but still existing subconscious spirit of the European people will continue to stir our race-soul for some time yet.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted December 19, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      Well said.

    • Whites Unite
      Posted December 21, 2014 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      If Jackson wanted to build a fantasy movie making empire, employing thousands of New Zealanders and independent of Hollywood, then butchering The Hobbit was the worst mistake he could make.

      The Quenta Silmarilion could easily be made into nine movies. If Jackson had produced a faithful adaptation of The Hobbit, and if he had recruited blacklisted Christian actors to play prominent Elves (Mel Gibson as Feanor? Kevin Sorbo as Fingon? James Caviezel as Maedhros?), he might have been able to persuade Christopher Tolkien to give permission. It could have been greater than the LOTR movie trilogy and the Game of Thrones miniseries combined.

    • Vick
      Posted December 24, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      I appreciate your love of the books – I love them too – but I can’t agree that the The Hobbit trilogy somehow undercuts Jackson’s achievement in the LOTR trilogy.

      They’re both cut from the same cloth. They’re the same long-winded unimaginative beast. They’re the same Hollywood travesty of their beautiful source literature.

      Starting with The Fellowship and leading up to The Five Armies, what you see is one long series of well-financed but ultimately down-market filmic gimmicks and one-upmanships. This profusion of over the movie-making tricks and jokes and overall profusion of over the top excess has always been Jackson’s ouevre going all the way back to Braindead.

      Jackson never should have been allowed to touch these stories, as the Tolkien family has sadly admitted.

  4. Hal
    Posted December 19, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I’m one of those people who saw the first 2 for nostalgia value and now felt like I had to see the final one despite being repeatedly disappointed. You sum up the issues perfectly: the creeping political correctness, the bloat motivated by greed and hubris, and the all-over-the-place tone (that was the worst for me, the way they kept shifting from epic adventure to Benny Hill slapstick comedy and back again). I did think this movie was the least bad of the lot, largely because it was mostly action and Jackson at least knows how to pull off a decent battle setpiece. The quieter moments were hit-and-miss, with the worst by far being the elf/dwarf romance, which was so awkward and forced it makes Star Wars Episode 2 look like Roman Holiday.

    The one good element I would highlight is that Martin Freeman really did play a great Bilbo Baggins throughout the series. He was frankly better than any of the hobbits in the LotR movies, his scenes with Gollum and Smaug were among the best parts of the trilogy (and most authentic to the book), and he did a great job of creating a character I could care about in a cast full of throwaway comic relief dwarves, and could cheer for despite not being a formidable warrior or wizard.

    But yes, aside from his performance and some decent effects the whole thing was pretty dire in retrospect.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted December 20, 2014 at 3:51 am | Permalink

      I agree about Freeman, and the particular scenes with Gollum and Smaug.

  5. Lew
    Posted December 20, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I cut bait when I read the review of the second one last year.

  6. Titus Didius Tacitus
    Posted December 20, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    My optimistic hopes for the Hobbit series ended in November 2010, with the firing of a casting agent who had been looking for female hobbits that fit the skin shades used in the movies up to then.

    Naz Humphreys, who has Pakistani heritage, said, “It’s 2010 and I still can’t believe I’m being discriminated against because I have brown skin. The casting manager basically said they weren’t having anybody who wasn’t pale-skinned.”

    So, he was fired. He didn’t have to be. Nobody would have remembered let alone still cared now if he had been over-ridden but allowed to keep his job.

    A representative for Peter Jackson said: “No such instructions were given (regarding skin tones), the crew member in question took it upon themselves to do that and it’s not something we instructed or condoned… The crew member in question has been dismissed… It’s something we take very seriously.”

    They do take race seriously, as we can see from blue-eyed, light-skinned orcs, multicultural mystery meat heroes and heroines, and a forced inter-racial romance.

    What they don’t care about at all is the white working class, or they would not have gone out of their way to fire a worker over a point of “anti-racist” political correctness.

    The reasonable expectation then was that a heartless, politically correct boss was going to make heartless, politically correct movies.

    I saw the first one anyway. It was bad, in all the predictable ways. I’m not seeing the rest.

  7. Mr. Dithers
    Posted December 20, 2014 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t help myself and trudged to the theater yesterday to see it. This review is pretty accurate in that aside from the special effects and overdone battle scenes, it is pretty devoid of substance and the details of major scenes are unfaithful to the books while new scenes bearing no relationship to the book were added. In the book and original animated movie, Azog was just Azog and was blackish gray, ugly and hairy, but was recast as “the pale orc” with blue eyes. The only thing he was missing was flowing blond hair.

    And everyone probably knows that big Hollywood Juden was aghast at the lack of diversity and the fact that in the LOTR all the good guys are not only white, but mostly blond and lily white. Anyone who has read the LOTR trilogy knows there were racial overtones throughout and darker hued people were viewed with distrust and disdain. It seems Peter Jackson atoned for that in this Hobbit trilogy as the only blond & blue were two elves, one of whom, the leader, was depicted as devious and cunning, but I only saw two Asians and a negress among the Lake Town inhabitants.

    The noble white men were brunettes with brown eyes, not that there’s anything wrong with that. If there is a remake in 10 years they will likely be black or Latino.

  8. Peltast
    Posted December 21, 2014 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I hate to admit but I watched this movie with my mom, is the only Hobbit movie that I went to see in the movie theater.

    The worst part of the movie was the dwarves defeating the orcs who are double their size.

  9. Peter Quint
    Posted December 21, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I was appalled and disgusted by the first film in this trilogy. The scenes where Radagast the Brown displayed the bird poop in his hair and the scene where the troll blew boogers into the stew pot left me nauseated. The first film was so disgusting and gross it reminded me of a Stephen King novel. The scenes where Radagast the Brown is leading his pursuers in a sleigh pulled by rabbits were an insult to Tolkien’s masterpiece.

  10. Joe
    Posted December 21, 2014 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Wow. You guys have to lighten up a little.
    Given the reality of the world we live in with the tribe that controls Hollywood and thus, the mores of political correctness… these films aren’t THAT bad. Yes, Leni Riefenstahl would have probably made the most “true-to-the-book” version of Tolkien’s fantasies, but she and her ideals lost 80 years ago and we have to appreciate any small rays of clear light that emanate from the filthy lens of Tinseltown. And no motion picture EVER captures either the grandeur or simplicity of a book. They’re two separate genres.
    Having said all this… I, too, feel the nausea when blue-eyed orcs and non-white Laketown people appear. But, in my opinion, it could have been far worse.

  11. AprilfromtheNorth
    Posted December 22, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I liked this version myself.

  12. WG
    Posted December 22, 2014 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed it, although, I’m a hardcore Tolkien fan and enjoy anything related to Tolkien. The trick is to separate it from the book. They’re clearly two different (though related) works of art. I still have a soft spot for the Rankin/Bass version of The Hobbit from 1977.

  13. AprilintheNorth
    Posted December 22, 2014 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I have read the trilogy about 10 times and the hobbit about 15 times over the years. I watched the first movie and cant really remember much about it, the second one I kept falling asleep. I wont bother to watch the third unless its free on cable some time in the future and I dont have a Homeland or Game of Thrones episode to catch up on.

  14. Cromwell
    Posted December 24, 2014 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Folks. If I may trouble you to watch parts II and III of The Hobbit trilogy again.

    *Watch the context in which the persons of color appear in each movie.*

    Seriously, watch it. Watch these two scenes very closely.

    Jackson is not a stupid man. Nor has he bent the knee to the Frankfurt School Gods.

    I liked the movies — LOTR and Hobbit(s) — but to each his own. I respect the opinions of all above and fully understand; I just happened to enjoy them greatly and don’t think they abused Tolkien as bad as could have been the case had Jackson been a creature of Hollywood and not New Zealand.

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