Monday, 5 January 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

Look Who’s Tolkien

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
2014 USA/New Zealand
Directed by Peter Jackson
Playing now at cinemas in the UK.

Well then.

I come to what is hopefully my last, somewhat samey review of another film in the completely superfluous Hobbit trilogy. Why you need a trilogy of overlong movies for a book with a relatively low page count, I’ll never know.

Oh, wait. Yes I will... they can charge you a minimum of three times to see the movies and a minimum of three times if you like them enough to buy the three DVDs or Blu Rays. And then, as an extra special bonus, they can gouge you for the three extended cuts the following November.

What a cynical money making exercise this has become. And all in the name of adapting Tolkien who, to be honest, doesn’t really have much to do with this second, prequel trilogy of films. Much less, even, than the botched attempt at “adapting” Lord Of The Rings a while ago. You guys know The Battle Of The Five Armies lasts just about one chapter in the book, right?

Okay, so, all that being said...

The Battle Of The Five Armies is not a bad little entertainment. It’s certainly not terrible... at least not in terms of the kinds of values placed on movies by Hollywood these days... possibly it’s morally terrible but, I think I’ve already covered that ground just now and in my two previous reviews here and here.  What it does have going for it, perhaps, in comparison with the other chapters in the trilogy, is its pacing.

It’s a speedy movie and the reason for this is it’s really, in some ways, just like the last third of Return Of The Jedi (reviewed on this blog soon). That is to say, it’s just pretty much one, big, long action scene taking up the whole movie with only a few bits of talking to break it up at odd intervals. And because the special effects in this installment are, mostly, pretty well done... it’s pretty impressive eye candy for a lot of the time. It doesn’t hurt that the performances of all the actors, stars and character parts alike, are all extremely good. You will believe in the people who are fighting their battles and you will, I’m delighted to say, feel for them to some small extent too. There’s a fair crack at an emotional hook between two of the characters in this segment... not a great one, to be fair, but it is present and so there’s a humanistic context to be had here... even if the two characters I’m talking about are a) an elf and a dwarf and the fact that b) one of the characters, the elf, isn’t a character from any of Tolkien’s works and made up for a specific actress to play.

The battles are exciting and, surprisingly, Jackson and co have managed to edit them, while using a lot of cross cutting from scene to scene and character to character, in such a way that it all makes sense in your head and it’s unlikely that you’ll get confused during the action scenes. Which, being as the film is pretty much just one giant action scene, as I said before, is an obvious bonus here.

Howard Shore’s score, though, is still the real star of the picture. I might never watch the movies again in my life but I’ll certainly give the soundtrack albums a spin or two over the years. The final song isn’t exactly great but the music throughout the movie is another mini masterpiece written by a genuinely great modern composer and... I suspect... they’ll be playing in concert versions and classical album selections for many decades after he, and I for that matter, are long dust in the ground.

And that’s about all I’ve got to say about this one, I’m afraid. This is an extremely short review, for me, and I apologise for that but, asides from keeping me entertained for a few hours, I really can’t find myself inspired by it enough to be able to dredge up anything else about either the technical merits of the movie or the way the story works. It is what it is, a Hollywood style cash in trading on the name of a much loved writer. If you’re a fan of heroic fantasy action cinema and have no interest in the source, then you should be fine with this latest pseudo-adaptation of The Hobbit. If, however, you’re not someone who can divorce the movie from its original source, and I am almost certainly guilty of doing this myself, to an extent (but at least I am trying to be objective about it), then this probably isn’t going to fill your heart with too much of anything except maybe rage. So see this one or don’t and you may, or may not, have a good time with it but... there are much better movies out there worth your time, I’m sure.

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