Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Well, The Hobbit saga concluded last December, and guess who watched it this weekend?
I'd have reviewed it earlier, but I was fiftieth in line to get the DVD at the library.
This film was originally subtitled There, and Back Again, one of the many, many subtitles that the original novel had. It made sense at first, because the other Hobbit movies used the subtitles of the novel to differentiate themselves from each other. But they decided that it didn't make a whole lot of sense, because it didn't represent the core theme of the film.
Unlike The Desolation of Smaug, Battle of the Five Armies starts off right from where the last film left off. So if you're planning to watch it, you might want to rewatch An Unexpected Journey, and The Desolation of Smaug right before this, since there's no recap at the beginning.
So, let's go ahead and get this out of the way. I'm a fan of the original novel. I love it to death. And I love this trilogy. I was a little iffy at first about splitting it into three films, since the book is about as big as a single Lord of the Rings novel, and each of those books was made into a single film each.
But they've managed to handle the expansion very well, fleshing out the story, and expanding the world.
I make a lot of fuss about pacing in movies and games, and this trilogy has paced itself out very well.
That's something that comes from producing all three movies back to back, like they did with The Lord of the Rings. Everything flows very naturally from one movie to another, with no inconsistencies between films in character portrayal or special effects.
Speaking of the effects, they're still great. They look good, and above all, they look consistent.
There's one little effects failure, where Bilbo's sword, Sting, doesn't glow when Orcs are near. But it's only in one scene, and it's fixed immediately afterwards. Aside from that, I didn't think anything was out of place.
Everything blends together naturally. Even scenes that you'd think would have to be entirely CGI look like they're taken right from Middle-Earth. For instance, the battle against Smaug looks like it would have to be a complex piece of computer animation, since a lot of it is Smaug running around, smashing things.
And when the titular battle of the five armies comes around, the sheer multitude of soldiers begs the question. Did they generate all of them with computers, or are they all people? I'd love to know.
Anyways, the issue with reviewing a film like this is that I don't know what all to say about it. What can be said about the visuals I've already said. And I don't want to ruin the film for others who haven't seen it.
Okay, the acting is excellent all around. From Martin Freeman's Bilbo, to Ian McKellen's Gandalf, to even Benedict Cumberbatch's short appearance as Smaug, to his stellar performance as The Necromancer, and beyond, the cast and direction are great. I don't think you could ask for any better casting or production on this trilogy. It's simply astounding.
Speaking of astounding, I would have sworn that the guy playing Bard The Bowman was Orlando Bloom, but he's actually played by Luke Evans (No relation to Chris Evans) who looks just like Orlando Bloom did in The Pirates of the Caribbean movies. As I'd never seen the original Lord of the Rings movies, nor looked into the cast, I didn't know that Orlando Bloom actually plays a different role in The Hobbit, that of Legolas Greenleaf.
As the movie went on, I kept wishing for it not to end. The Hobbit saga has been an enchanting experience, and I loved every single second of it. If you want to spend a day watching all three Hobbit movies, then it's one of the best things you could ask to spend eight hours on. Or nine hours if you're watching the extended cuts.
The Hobbit movies have raked in a good three-to-five times their budget in revenue, at about a billion dollars each. This particular movie was the second highest-grossing film of 2014, a scant $45 million or so behind one of my other favorites of 2014, Transformers: Age of Extinction.
The fact that this movie managed to spend three weeks straight at number one and rack up enough money to cover its $250 million budget in twelve days is a testament to its status as part of one of the biggest media franchises of all time, and one of the best movie series of the entire decade, if not the century.
Now, I might as well talk about something that I've heard some people complain about. An original character named Tauriel.
Some people didn't like the fact that she was added to the film. I don't know how many people didn't, but I don't agree with them, I like her. And her relationship with Kili was one of my favorite parts of both this movie, and The Desolation of Smaug.
The added scenes with Gandalf were also a welcome addition, because I remember him simply vanishing for a while in the book with absolutely no explanation. And from what I've read, most of the material for the original scenes was taken from a companion book that Tolkien wrote, and additional bits and pieces mentioned in the other Lord of the Rings books that were just kinda there to explain why things happened the way they did in The Hobbit.
To the best of my understanding, a lot of that had been cut from the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, so it made sense to include it where it actually fits into Middle-Earth continuity. Always better to show something happening, rather than having to explain it in an exposition dump. Better to just not explain it than to have the characters waste ten minutes of the audience's time figuring out what the hell's going on.
And if you choose to do the latter, remember that you're depriving the audience of a good scene, boring them out of their minds for a few minutes, potentially raising troubling questions about the plot, and breaking down a movies pacing. Even if you have to sacrifice accuracy for the sake of pacing, you should always go for the best pacing you can.
Even if you need to make the movie super-long, or even make it into multiple smaller movies, the pacing is paramount to keeping the movie interesting.
All in all, this movie hits all the good buttons on the cinema machine, and pretty much none of the bad buttons. I give it a 10.1* rating.
I'll see you guys next week with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1!