Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Four Armies And A Handful Of BASTARDING EAGLES

Image not necessarily representative of film

Even a Star Wars Prequel Trilogy apologist like me is well aware of George Lucas' shortcomings in his handling of Episodes I, II and III, but you know what he didn't do over the course of six films? He didn't have characters facing certain doom, only for them to be rescued at the last moment by a bunch of giant birds who didn't feature anywhere else in the story. And what's more, he didn't do that THREE FUCKING TIMES. For this reason, and many more, Lucas can breathe a massive sigh of relief: he is no longer the director of the most disappointing prequel trilogy of all time.

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

The Hobbit's first two parts, An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation Of Smaug, were just about acceptable for returning us to Jackson's gorgeous vision of Middle-earth and for featuring a handful of bravura sequences, but they both felt like what they essentially were: pale imitations of The Lord Of The Rings films. Now that The Battle Of The Five Armies is upon us, it's hard not to take Jackson's Middle-earth for granted and hope that we might at last get some rollicking action and characters to care about.

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.

The Battle Of The Five Armies isn't a total disaster. It boasts a couple of sequences almost worth the price of a ticket: the opening assault on Laketown by a vengeful Smaug is fiery fun, and a scrap in which Galadriel, Saruman and Elrond smack down against the spectral Nazg├╗l is reminiscent of the excited spirit of Jackson's The Frighteners. But both scenes fail to really set the screen on fire, even the one in which everything else goes up in smoke.

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.

Crucially, of all the extraneous crap Jackson has stuffed into this trilogy, the one thing he's left out - which Tolkien's book had in abundance - is fun. The Battle Of The Five Armies is so painfully, po-facedly glum and gloomy that for all the joy you'll experience you may as well buy your ticket then stand out by the cinema bins in the rain for 144 minutes. Even then you'll care just as much as anyone who sits through the movie about why Azog the Orc-bastard wants Thorin dead or why Bilbo ever went on this baffling mission in the first place. In fact, why not use the time to watch something else instead, like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace? At least that's got Jar Jar Binks in it.

10 comments :

  1. 'Lucas can breathe a massive sigh of relief: he is no longer the director of the most disappointing prequel trilogy of all time'.

    Sorry mate - it still is and always will be, and I love star wars, clearly not as much as you though

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  2. You have my sympathies having to sit through this and the other 2 CG WOWC bore fests. Even if this one is a more merciful 2h and abit. (which is uncharacteristic of PJ)

    I don't think PJ really wanted to make them anyway. Sounds like he was forced into it by circumstances. And when the studio suggested making them into a trilogy for extra $ he was just like fuckit whatever lets do it. And McKellan didn't want to do them

    This Won't be it either, 10years or less and they'll want another trilogy but PJ will just exec produce as some 30 something geek director who grew up with the films takes over

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  3. I am not a fan either of the series, but your "review" is ridiculously biased!

    I have watched the first two Hobbit films and all SW films. And so far the Hobbit is much better compared to SW prequels: FAR better acting and actor choices, better story, and material from unfinished tales to tie it with LOTR.

    I am sorry, but i cant take this "review" seriously:

    " In fact, why not use the time to watch something else instead, like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace? At least that's got Jar Jar Binks in it."

    One of the most annoying and useless characters of all time. Can you fanboy a little more please?
    Your fanboying rant is childish and lacks seriously objective point of view, even if you dont like the movie.

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  4. I am concerned that you did not take my review seriously, particularly the final sentence, about which I could not be more serious if I was announcing the death of a loved one. I have never meant anything more in my entire life than those closing words, and for you to infer a lack of seriousness on my part is both troubling and personally distressing. I beg you to reconsider your opinion and, more importantly, watch Star Wars Episode I at the earliest possible opportunity.

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  5. I don't think I've ever sat in a cinema for three franchise films and wished I was dead each time. Fuck, never mind the Star Wars prequel trilogy, even any three Resident Evil films are preferable to these abominations...

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  6. The general consensus and film reviews have correctly stated that these movies are enjoyable, although not on the same level of the LOTR trilogy.

    To suggest that these movies (or any other trilogy) is as bad as the Star Wars prequels is nothing but wishful thinking by a SW fanboy.

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  7. I agree. I can't believe people use their personal blogs to put forward their own views instead of repeating the general consensus. What will these renegades do next? They must be stopped immediately.

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  8. Utterly adorred LOTRs and the Hobbit was my favourite book as a kid. That said I hated Hobbit Part 1 and 2; it's doubtful I'll see this. However... unlike most of the other utter nonsense Jackson added to needlessly stretch these out at least the eagles were actually in the book! Fingers crossed somebody edits together a short version from the three of them and removes all the white ork related nonsense etc.

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  9. A slightly nicer anonymous9 December 2014 at 21:56

    I, for one, am personally appalled to see a "biased" review. Critics should stop with opinion and merely repeat the plain facts as they stand. Running time, cast list, director, how many seconds we can see nipples for. Job done.

    That said, I'm glad it's pants. I've been boycotting The Hobbit films (well, more like not bothering to see them and choosing to ignore them on Netflix) on the grounds that three films was two too many and they were bound to be shit. I think I'll wait until somebody makes a decent fan-edit.

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  10. the year is 2024 - I'm picturing McKellan in an expensive nursing home enjoying his tea and crumpets, regaling others with tales of wonderment and awe of his glittering career when a carer walks in and interrupts him..."excuse me, Mr McKellan?"...the carer says. "yeess my dear what is it?' McKellan replies (in that quizzical McKellan way) "theres a phone call for you.. a Mr Peter Jackson?" McKellans face goes white... 'Ohhh No...no no no!...please no!" (all in that McKellan way - you know how it is) he wheels himself away back to his room, his voice reverberating around the home "No! No!'

    flash forward to New Zealand a year later. Mckellan in full Gandalf costume sitting in a special chair on green screen set of the LOTR sequel trilogy, a thoroughly miserable scowl on his 90 odd year old face as he watches Jackson excitedly tinker about with some ping pong balls attached to a long pole.

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