It is quite an achievement, considering how much my fondness for the Lord of the Rings franchise has been slowly but surely worn away.
With Smaug the Magnificent bearing down on Lake Town, Thorin Oakenshield and his dwarves having occupied the fortress of Erebor and the Orc armies closing in, Bilbo finds himself at the centre of a massive battlefield.
There’s very little to actually say about this, storywise, but can you blame me? This film is based around about ten pages of book!
It feels like the equivalent of walking in on Return of the Jedi as the rebel fleet attacks the Death Star, or when Gondor falls under siege in Return of the King.
The folly of director Peter Jackson’s decision to turn a children’s book into a seven hour epic has been fully realised here, making The Battle of the Five Armies quite possibly the worst entry in the franchise (and that is only because of An Unexpected Journey’s sheer nostalgia factor) this so-called “Defining Chapter” is little more than a CG infested battle sequence, living up to its name perhaps but definitely failing to feel important or relevant.
It has been a year, you could say the flow has been broken.
The Battle of the Five Armies, in the book, is a brief affair since the story is told only from Bilbo’s perspective (the book is called The Hobbit, after all) and he is swiftly knocked unconscious and misses the entire battle. The makes this film’s existence the most perplexing and the most difficult to sell, but it appears Jackson has taken this issue and ran with it as an excuse show Legolas doing more crazy gravity defying stunts, to cast Billy Connelly as a battle frenzied dwarf and have a lot of replicated computerised orcs.
Of course there are moments. Richard Armitage plays the murky psyche of Thorin Oakenshield perfectly; this is a storm that has been given time to build and provides this film’s only sense of gravity and finality. Smaug, as with the book, remains the reason we are watching despite lasting a pitiful ten minutes here (consider him used like the Balrog fight in The Two Towers) and the film is worse off for not having him longer.
Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman continues to be excellent in the role given to him in the second film, Bard who becomes a valiant hero in the book by the end. Yet, by the power of the trilogy’s bafflingly silly screenplay Bard’s stand off with Smaug is made ridiculously stupid, making one of the book’s other exciting moments more of an eyebrow-raising absurdity.
It also still has the performances, though some are decidedly just there for cameos, the look and feel of the other films, which maintains a level of quality despite all of the flaws.
Even the other reason for making three films, The Necromancer, feels woefully swept under the carpet; reduced down to a rather silly rescue mission featuring the lady Galadriel, lord Elrond and Ragagast the Brown.
Now I am sure people will defend the film, but I honestly struggle to imagine how. This is a conclusion, literally the third act that The Desolation of Smaug was lacking. It fails as a singular film, lacking any new characters or developments that allow it to have its own style or merit, and would only benefit from watching back-to-back with its predecessor.
The way that Desolation has ended made me suspect this sort of palaver would follow, but I had hoped I’d be proven wrong.
Someone needs to make an edit of these films and condense them down to about four hours, because having seen them all I can safely say it can be done. Right now, I have no desire to watch any of them again except the second one.