The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is basically the Desolation of Tolkien. Let us count the ways it fails.
Tom Glasson
December 23, 2014


For a movie this bad, a standard review is more than it deserves, so instead we’re giving it the treatment of something less dignified. Here are ten reasons why The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies fails in every possible respect. Despite fierce deliberation, our pros list stands at zero.

The prequel tension vaccuum

Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins, Legolas, Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman: they're all familiar characters from Lord of the Rings that feature heavily in this film. Why is this relevant? Because as a prequel to LOTR, it means we know every single one of them survives. Not even a war involving five armies can inject tension into scenes involving any of these characters because they’re cinematically invulnerable.

Fifteen Minutes of Freeman

It doesn't seem entirely unreasonable to think that a film (a) about the hobbit, and (b) called 'The Hobbit', would at some point feature the hobbit. Well get ready for unreasonable, because Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins (just about the only thing that held these films together), is given so little screen time, this should simply be called: 'The Battle of the Five Armies And Nothing Else, Okay? So Just Shut Up'.


Remember the climactic cliffhanger ending of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, in which Smaug took to the skies headed for Lake Town to finally do some desolating? Well… he dies. Like, right away. He’s Steven Segal in Executive Decision, that’s how quick it is.

Lisa Needs Braces

‘The Last Exit To Springfield’ is regarded by many as the greatest Simpsons episode of all time, featuring the iconic, echoey memory montage of voices in Homer's head screaming: “Lisa needs braces / Dental Plan!” The same thing happens in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and it’s hilarious, but it’s certainly not meant to be.

Alfrid the Pointless

In Tolkien’s novel, the character of Alfrid Lickspittle is unnamed and rates little more than a cursory mention. In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Jackson has made him a significant secondary character despite him having no point whatsoever. To call him 'this film’s Jar Jar Binks' would almost be unfair to Jar Jar. We’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

Five Armies Is Three Too Many

Speaking of The Phantom Menace (something few people ever do), remember that clusterfuck of a final battle involving cloned robots, Jedi, Sith, human space pilots and Gungans? It was confusing, distracting and largely irrelevant to the overall… I wanna say ‘plot’? So too the battle in this film. Tolkien gave it only slightly more attention than those unnamed characters, yet Jackson's done an entire film about it. Its scale is impressive, but inherently it requires most of its thousands of combatants to be computer generated and, as such, is about as emotionally engaging as a screensaver.

Fuck You, Sir Isaac Newton

Legolas runs up a series of falling bricks as they tumble down a gaping ravine. It’s strange to talk about ridiculous implausibility in a movie featuring orcs, necromancers and invisibility rings, but this was just one crumbling-step too far.

Like Sands through the Hourglass

What do you get if you combine the hackneyed writing of a daytime soap with the protracted, intense stares and closeups of a daytime soap? Clue: it's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. In fact, one exchange through a hole in a wall between Thorin and Bard the Bowman ends with a head turn of such unbelievably contrived drama, the entire cinema laughed.

On The 8th Day, Jackson Created Tauriel

In order to stretch a 19-chapter book into almost nine hours of cinema, you need to embellish, and in this trilogy Peter Jackson invented the character of Tauriel (played by Evangeline Lilly). Setting aside her redundancy, the fearsome warrior with complicated romance issues was actually fun to watch, so it’s mystifying why she’s given about as much screen time as Bilbo. On the upside, Jackson will probably give Tauriel her own trilogy in a year or two.

Ultra High Def

As we’ve noted previously, the astounding clarity of 4K HD film makes the world of Middle Earth an absolute joy to behold, and is pretty much the only format of 3D that doesn’t exhaust your eyes. But it also makes films shot in this format feel entirely un-cinematic and more like live community theatre. Coupled with the terrible writing and hammy acting, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a perfect Christmas movie in that it’s basically a pantomime.


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