The question many folk have asked is; can you make a feature length film out of a single chapter? I suppose you can, but it is interesting to note, The Battle of the Five Armies is not a single chapter in The Hobbit. In fact, it isn’t a chapter at all, at least there isn’t one by that title. This third movie in The Hobbit movie-trilogy comprises six chapters and tons of information culled from the “Appendices” of The Lord of the Rings.
I must preface my review with some back-commentary. It is very clear that Peter Jackson’s rendition of The Lord of the Rings movies were a labor of love. We can talk about money until the last leaves in Mirkwood fall, but his attention to detail is not only a director’s masterwork. His attention to the plot, character, flow, and feel of the novels make his affections clear. However, it is equally clear that the three-movie cut-up of the smaller and less epic, The Hobbit, is not a love-labor, but more a cash-maker. When you are in the barrels, flow with the river I guess.
I do not need to discuss the plot. If you really want it, read the book. It is short, entertaining, easy, and frankly, better.
The special effects are, as you would expect, top notch. However, a great many of them are meaningless and trite. They are action for action’s sake. Having so heavily padded the script in order to turn six small chapters into a lengthy movie, many of the special visuals seem to exist as a form of play. “Can we have trolls do this? How many different configurations can we generate?” At least, that is what I felt like I was watching. Many of the machinations in this mash-up do not exist in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It is fine to reinterpret, but lines can be crossed.
I do enjoy Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo Baggins. He does his job very well in this final feature, as does Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. Beyond them, everyone else is, well, meh. What few lines there are, are flat and featureless. Likewise are the direction, and the score I am sad to say.
I add this postscript to my preface; The Hobbit is an acorn, a tiny thought out of which a great party-tree grows. It is not terribly deep nor grandiose. That does not mean it is lifeless. There is a great deal within it that can grab one’s heart and mind. But one should not try to breathe more life into it than it has. Let it walk on its own two wooly feet. It has stolen hearts for decades, and will steal them for decades more if allowed.
The 3D works well, if you are so inclined. If you enjoy pretty colors, lights, and lots of action and you do not wish to be bothered with plot or deep insights, see it. You could easily wait for a rental or stream. The crowd will not change what you see in this, and you can keep a few dragon-coin in your pocket.
The tag “Not worth the ticket” does not suggest that you should not go and see if you’ve a mind to. In my book, all movies are worth the price of admission, especially with friends or family. It is about the gathering and the doing. “Not worth the ticket” is simply my over-inflated value judgment of the work itself – not the value of time-spent sitting in the dark among a crowd and taking in a story.