Image not necessarily representative of film
Nope, that honour now belongs to Peter Jackson, who claimed he knew exactly what he was doing when he inflated JRR Tolkien's slim children's book, The Hobbit, into what currently stands at over eight and a half hours of mediocre, mope-ridden melodrama spread over three movies, with more to come when the final instalment's extended edition arrives on DVD and Blu-ray next year. In comparison, the eleven and a half hour running time of the extended versions of Jackson's majestic The Lord Of The Rings trilogy feel like they pass by in the flap of a dragon's wing.
You're not the only one checking your watch, pal
But no. Of his two lead characters, Jackson is never quite sure in whom his film is less interested; both Bilbo Baggins and Thorin Oakenshield are one-dimensional pieces on a game board. Other characters fare just as badly: the heroic Bard The Bowman is sub-Aragorn blandness personified; Legolas exists only to pull off some obviously CG-enhanced elfrobatics; Gandalf has none of the self-doubt that made him a flawed superhero in The Lord Of The Rings, and after three films of watching thirteen short, hairy dudes grunting at each other, I STILL found myself looking at a couple of the dwarfs with the distinct certainty that I'd never clapped eyes on them before.
As for the tedious, tacked-on threesome between Kili the dwarf, Tauriel the Jackson-invented elf and Legolas, was there ever a more obvious, less successful attempt to widen a film's appeal? It's all very well shoving in a kick-ass action heroine to balance the testosterone, but to then a) make her the fulcrum of one of cinema's most insipid love triangles ("You make me feel alive," Kili actually whimpers out loud at one point) and b) require her to be rescued by BOTH of her potential suitors within five minutes is a colossal foot-shot.
It does, however, make for some exquisite fan art.
And there's so much rubbish here that it's easy to forget anything that threatens to tip the scales beyond average. Billy Connolly voices a dwarf - atrociously realised with CG for no obvious reason - who has a Scottish accent, ginger hair and who dispatches foes with a crunching headbutt, firmly placing him in the Jar Jar Binks school of unfortunate stereotypes. Meanwhile, in a less successful retread of the ill effects on Frodo's personality caused by the One Ring, Thorin turns greedy, selfish and miserable because he can't find the lost Sankara Stone, but becomes all happy and cuddly again after going for a stroll and having a little think about it. And then there are the Giant Worm Things. Mentioned ominously by the orcs as terrifying, earth-eating beasts, we await their arrival with the hope of something thrilling, and when they do appear - in one spectacular, seat-shaking, presumably phenomenally expensive shot, they are terrific. No doubt the orcs will use them to tunnel under and into the mountain fortress guarded by our plucky heroes? Well, no actually. That's the last we'll see of them, and their existence is never referred to again.
As for the titular battle, well, you can't help but think you've seen it all done better before. Hordes of indistinct pixels, scrappily and bloodlessly going for each other with no clear sense of who's fighting who - except perhaps Beorn the skin-changer, whose lengthy and pointless scene in The Desolation Of Smaug suggested a fuller role in this film, rather than the six or so seconds he's afforded in the 45-minute climax. And when the fifth army show up out of nowhere, unapologetically and inexplicably late in the day, you just know that nobody was willing to turn to Peter Jackson and say "Hey Pete, you think maybe we should NOT have the fucking eagles save the day for once?"
Look at these smug, winged cunts.