Review: ‘Battle Of The Five Armies’ Is The Best ‘Hobbit,’ Which Isn’t Saying Much

The Hobbit: Part One: Part Three. It’s a thing. And it’s the best thing of the series, though that’s like saying the best part of being a hostage is when they send the pizza or donuts in for your captor to feed you. The entire The Hobbit franchise is a case study in fandom and literature sucking hind teet to the big bad momma dolla. The stupidest part is, you can’t even judge these things on their own, as they don’t make any sense as standalone films. Hell, they don’t make any sense all together either, but as a power trio at least the entire story is laid bare on the autopsy table. You can fast-forward through all the parts where they walk and sing and get it down to a medium-sized action short film.

Where do we start? Smaaaaauuuuuuuggg the Dragon, that old so and so, he’s laying waste to the town below his gold-filled mountain. My sketchy recollection of the last Hobbit was that they woke him up, so now he’s primed and ready for 187 on a m’fing town. He does this with glee, laughing and shooting fire, saying Smaug stuff like, “Hot enough for ya?” and “Fire in the hole!”. Sadly, Smaug is not the main character, and the vast majority of the film is about his mountain instead. So far as I can tell, the Dwarves, who’ve taken over the mountain (along with Bilbo Balboa), aim to hold it to secure their financial future. This is Mount Gold, population greedy dwarves. But other people want the mountain too! They want it so bad! It’s as though no one in the entire realm has heard of a 401k, evidently they were all waiting around for a mountain full of doubloons to be discovered so they could rush off to claim it.

Once everyone perks their ears up and says, “Gold? We’re in!” this version of The Hobbit attempts to be a battle of five armies, but even this is a dirty lie. Elves, humans, dwarves, and orcs dot the landscape for those reasons that are fairly silly (orcs spend gold? at orc farmer’s markets?). But if you’ve been counting, that’s only four armies. The fifth army, our JFK third bullet, is either another band of Orcs, held in reserve, OR a mercenary goblin army (whom I guess you pay in gold, point for P-Jack). It’s very hilarious when the merc-goblin army shows up, because the humans dispatch two guys to kill about 100 of them, in a scene lasting maaaaaybe eight seconds. So if that’s the fifth army, thumbs up for minimalism. There’s also some chance something called an “Earth Mover” is the fifth army, because there’s another throwaway scene where an Orc yells, “They have no IDEA where they’ve chosen to fight!!” Then he points at the Earth Mover, who looks like a giant Dune worm. We never see those things again though, and they don’t eat anyone. That’s just the level of attention to detail you can expect to enjoy in this film. There’s something out there moving! Look at it with your eyes, listen to it with your hears, be bored by it with your intellect.

So far as problems with the film go, inconsequential action, incomprehensible motives, and sketches of characters that wouldn’t even fly on “SNL” are presented throughout. There’s a guy who looks a little like Aragorn, a fellow who looks a little like Gimli, and an Orlando Bloom who looks a little like Orlando Bloom. There’s a sniveling guy who is similar to the dude who infected the other king’s mind in Return of the King. Gandalf and Cate Blanchett are all over it too, and Sarumon is a good guy this time! Heeeyoooooooo. The Nazgul roll in for a quickie, and the all-seeing eye has a cameo. The ring still makes Balboa disappear, never fear there. But all of it, the whole damn kaboodle, has absolutely no stakes, because we’ve all seen the un-compromised second act – The Lord of the Rings. These knuckleheads who are fighting, who the hell are they? And why do they matter? We know that the coming battle will have nothing to do with gold, and everything to do with power, so here the themes are all jumbled up like witness testimony.

The best part of Hobbit: Tres, rather easily, are the rabbits who act like sled dogs. The brother of Gandalf has them strung up like huskies, he’s on the reins, and they scoot on outta places when need be. Gandalf makes his exit this way, my guess is the giant eagles were busy doing other things, perhaps building giant nests on top of telephone polls. If those sled rabbits ever rescued me from somewhere I’d say, “Whew! Close one! We only gotta out there by a hare!” and then we’d laugh and laugh, me and Gandalf’s wacky brother. Sigh. Hobbit jokes rule. I’m really going to miss those.

The main thrust of the action is: When will everyone get along? The dwarves hold the mountain, and they call for other dwarf buddies to come help. The elves show up for some reason. The humans believe they are owed something. The orcs drop in so there’s a bad guy everyone can unite against, and then the other orcs so there can be two enemies. There are plenty of fights, which is why this is the superior Hobbit. Being mostly reliant on shots of walking really hamstrung the previous Hobbit movies’ ability to entertain. It’s often difficult to tell who is fighting who, unless there’s an orc involved. There’s a pretty nice scene that happens on the ice, and I liked that elf-dwarf love was hinted at, because it gives me hope that I can date a WBNA star one day, if she’ll have me. But man, not much of consequence happens anywhere in these 144 minutes. There are a few “in” references, so you can feel awesome about knowing things, and Martin Freeman is game as per normal. But overall there’s not much reason for this to exist.

And so, yes, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is easily the best film of the Hobbit franchise, which means it’s merely not good, as opposed to damned-near unwatchable. I could see liking this if you need a warm place to stay, or perhaps if you’re on liquid morphine. Ooooh, or maybe if you loved The Lord of the Rings! Nah, only yanking your chain, true fans of The Lord of the Rings should hate this thing like a punch to the nethers. It’s well known that Peter Jackson didn’t originally want to direct this new trio, and you could make a strong case that he didn’t. The whole enterprise plays out with the joyless inevitability of a timeshare presentation. Key words and imagery are thrown in to keep your interest, but you’ve been there before, you know the beats, and the want and need in that salesman’s eye is something truly terrible to behold.

Grade: D