That Prequel Trilogy Blues, or, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The most honest assessment I can provide you of my own experience with the last movie in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, without trying to be witty and snarky, is as follows:

I saw Battle of the Five Armies in theaters, albeit a little late, and despite forming opinions and having a thought or two about the movie I didn’t write about it. Not because I couldn’t think of how to express said thoughts or opinions, but because I just straight up forgot. I can’t even find a reminder I wrote myself to write a post about it. Apparently it never even occurred to me to write something about it. And it stayed that way until I saw a commercial for the release of the Blu-ray while pondering what I wanted to write about this week.

Of further note, I had to do an internet search for the film because I couldn’t remember its subtitle.

Woah! Look at all the things!

Woah! Look at all the things!

I feel like that background information serves as a pretty honest assessment of the final Hobbit installment. It wasn’t awful or offensive. I didn’t spend hours fuming and brooding over it, or thinking of clever ways to make fun of it. I just immediately forgot about it in the time it took me to walk to my car. Which probably isn’t the intended effect of a $250M movie. Though I guess they got my money either way.

I would never call the Battle of the Five Armies a bad movie because I sincerely don’t think it is. It has some noteworthy spectacle to be sure, and quite a few solid performances. But it doesn’t have the heart of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It ain’t got that soul. The poignancy and desperation and triumph and fellowship (Eh? Eh?) of Return of the King are filtered through The Hobbit and become a sort of manufacturer melodrama. A long awaited valiant charge into impossible odds doesn’t feel heroic, it feels silly and strategically ridiculous. The visual rendering of a character’s lust for treasure doesn’t feel like a psychological battle, it feels like an overlong Twix commercial. The exhibition of heartbreak and loss when the dust settles at the end of the film feels more like a collection of required follow-ups than a tribute to the fallen.

I understood what I was supposed to be feeling throughout Battle of the Five Armies, more often than not I could draw a direct correlation to things I felt during Lord of the Rings, but The Hobbit tells you how you’re supposed to feel with all the subtlety of telling you how you’re supposed to feel, and its stripped of much of its sincerity as a result. Without that beating heart beneath the massive set pieces and clashes, it all winds up feeling hollow and forgettable despite the technical proficiency with which they’re executed.

Though it’s not entirely fair to the film, I compare The Hobbit to Lord of the Rings here for convenience. Comparisons aside Battle of the Five Armies is a serviceable fantasy flick in its own right, but it more often than not rings hollow. Rings. Like, get it? I’m still probably going to wind up getting the extended editions of The Hobbit trilogy, like an idiot, but it’s extremely likely that this post is the most time I’ll spend grappling with it on any sort of substantive level.

P.S. I just rewatched the trailer and I take it back. I ain’t gonna get those Blu-rays.

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