By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Five armies? Seems like twenty-five.
For viewers who found the first two Hobbit movies remote and overstuffed and wearying, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies represents the battle of the three epics, the battle of the six hours, and the battle of the heavy eyelids.
Hobbit-forming these movies are not.
Similarly to 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and 2013’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies caps the historical fantasy trilogy by picking up right where the last journey ended, showing off its cinematic techniques to no avail, lacking an emotional point of entry, and giving rise mostly to impatience and indifference, located as they are in the Middle-Earth realm of Lotsa Moolah.
Like its predecessors, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies leaves you wanting less.
For producer/director/co-writer Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong, The Lovely Bones, Heavenly Creatures), this sixth excursion to Middle Earth as the third installment of a three-part prequel to The Lord of the Rings represents two decades of moviemaking based on a 320-page tale by JRR Tolkien, an anti-war, anti-greed children’s book that the author wrote for his own children in 1937.
That’s three (count ‘em, three) big movies emanating out of one (count it, one!) little book.
And this third outing offers the conclusion to the epic tale of reluctant, diminutive, titular hero Bilbo Baggins, played again by Martin Freeman -– although the dwarf Thorin, played by Richard Armitage, turns out to be the pivotal character this time out.
The Company of Dwarves have reclaimed the vast wealth of their homeland, the dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, but have had to face the terrifying fire-breathing dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and then participate in extensive interspecies armed conflict, garnished with CGI enhancement, among bickering allies triggered by out-of-control greed –- a theme that the makers of this supersized boondoggle would seem to know something about.
Accompanying Bilbo are 13 dwarves who, once again, lack individuality to a ludicrous degree and slowly recede into the background as the film goes on.
The adapted screenplay by Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippe Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro, trafficking in overkill, makes sure to trot out one last time just about every character we’ve already encountered in the other five films, but it plays as if on the assumption that we’re so interested in them coming in that it doesn’t matter what they do or say.
That is, let me hasten to add, not the case.
The large ensemble includes Evangeline Lilly, Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Billy Connolly, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Aidan Turner, Stephen Fry, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christpher Lee, Hugo Weaving, and Orlando Bloom.
So it’s another dispiriting, more-is-less, déjà-viewing experience; another exercise in techno-geeky self-indulgence with no similarly painstaking care lavished on story, character, or dialogue; another slog to sit through during which all you notice are the sets and the background and the makeup and the special effects; another parade float that does little other than make a spectacle of itself.
Relief that it’s over is the gear you’ll find yourself in when the final credits roll.
So we’ll shift into 2 stars out of 4 for the bloated and tedious The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the third of three movies that should have been one.