I quite liked the first Hobbit, though it was worryingly over-stuffed with Christopher Lee cameos and whatnot. The second film on the other hand was all stuffing and no meat, a relentless parade of middling events and characters apparently only there to pay off in the third film. In retrospect, so few of those moments and characters actually do pay off that it makes me dislike the middle film all the more.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a worthless film that lacks in every possible way, a boring morass of constipated spectacle bereft of emotion, triumph or joy. Even the destruction of Lake-town and the death of Smaug, the real ending of the previous film and one of the few events in the whole trilogy that audiences might have had some emotional investment in, is flaccid. Loped off and prepended here so that The Desolation of Smaug could have a cliffhanger ending and deny audiences a feeling of closure, the sequence is robbed of both built-up tension and any sense of elation when it’s over, a tendency that marks the rest of the film.
The battle of the five armies itself is a long and numbing affair, just so many rubbery, weightless figurines bouncing off and around each other like a bad physics demo. There’s no impact to any of it, like watching cut-scenes from videogames you have no interest in playing. Worse than the weightlessness of the special effects, though, is how emotionally weightless the whole thing is. There’s no moment that made me rise in my seat with excitement, no goosebumps or chills down the spine. Think back to how things were in The Lord of the Rings: Boromir sacrificing himself against the Uruk-Hai, or the Riders of Rohan turning the tide at Helms Deep, or Eowyn killing the Witch King. There’s nothing like this here; it’s like watching TV with the sound turned off.
I could almost forgive all of that, except that the weak action is matched by weak characters. Nobody shows any passion for anything; everyone just mopes around until it’s time for the next computer generated army to show up. As for the actual hobbit, he barely registers. It simply isn’t Bilbo’s film, and that’s ultimately the problem that blights the whole trilogy. Martin Freeman’s excelled in the role, but he’s been constantly pushed aside in favour of increasingly-desperate attempts to make the series epic.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is Peter Jackson at his worst, his most uncontrolled and bloated film since King Kong. God, what a pointless, uninspired, waste of time and money this whole endeavour has been.