Brace thyself for a nerd alert: I’m one of those people who read The Silmarillion. If you’re not in the know, The Simarillion is a posthumously published collection of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology about the back history of Middle Earth. Silmarillion doesn’t hold up on its own, and the only real reason to read it is if you want to immerse yourself in bits of the sagas of elves and men, and really geek out on Beren and Lúthien.
I realized, after seeing The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies, that watching the Hobbit trilogy serves the same purpose. It doesn’t hold up on its own, but if you really just want to enjoy a bit more of the things that you loved about Lord of the Rings, it can be fun. In my case, LOTR’s appeal is about watching beautiful men tossing their luscious hair and riding horsies, and in that regard, the Hobbit trilogy delivers.
In most ways, the Hobbit trilogy as a whole enrages me, primarily because it shouldn’t be a trilogy. After seeing Desolation of Smaug at the midnight opening last year, I swore “never again” as I left the theater, bleary eyed, at 3 a.m.
A lot of things made sense to me when I read a Cracked article theorizing why the Hobbit films aren’t very good, and it’s because director Peter Jackson reluctantly took over the project when Guillermo del Toro dropped out. Whereas LOTR was driven by Jackson’s love for the source material, the Hobbit was driven by money. There’s absolutely no artistic or storytelling merit to making three films out of this—there is only profit. This makes me sad.
And yet when the time came, I still clasped my special-edition Fellowship leaf pin to my blouse and headed to see Battle of Five Armies with just a tinge of hope—and booze hidden in my purse. I did the smart thing and went to a matinee this time. I also brought my sister, a considerable array of snacks, and sat close to the exit so we could duck out to go to the bathroom easily. I highly recommend that you take this strategy.
Let’s get the not-so-great out of the way: Five Armies is still an absurdly long movie; it’s stretched out, unjustifiably, with extra subplots involving the people of Laketown and an unlikely love triangle between two elves and a dwarf. My sister did frequently whisper “Come on, make out already!” to no avail; the most action anyone gets in this film is when someone holds a dead guy’s hand and weeps.
In Five Armies, expository dialogue scenes meant to set up LOTR are pointless, confusing and distracting from the Hobbit’s central tale. The action scenes are sometimes worse, relying heavily on half-assed CGI; at one point, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) prances up falling rocks in a laughably cheesy slo-mo.
But, speaking of Legolas, Five Armies is improved where the first two were not in many regards, thank Eru. My dear Leggy gets a little better showing of badassery this time around, along with Lee Pace’s deliciously queeny Thranduil, who rides a giant Irish elk into battle, kills orcs and never musses his hair. Galadriel makes an appearance, played to the hilt, as always, by Cate Blanchett. Really, the elves are one of the best reasons to see this movie, particularly the scene where they arrive into the dragon-devastated Laketown and distribute what looks like Swiss chard to the hungry townsfolk. Only elves would deliver leafy greens to starving people, and it’s a charming touch. Also, we get to see dwarves ride into battle on giant mountain goats, which looks awesome. The costuming is lovingly detailed, and seeing the beautiful embroidery and knitwear up close kept me engaged even when the melodrama was silly.
When the eponymous battle of Five Armies gets going, things finally get good (or at least better): heroic deeds, tragic deaths, epic action and ultimate victory of good over evil. It took a ridiculous amount of time to get there, but at last, I got what I came for.