The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
The best thing about finally reaching the third and last chapter of Peter Jackson's ponderously epic eight-hour adaptation of the rather brief and chipper novel The Hobbit is that we may be assured that once the DVD hits next year, some intrepid fan is going to whittle the whole thing down into a breezy 105-minute phantom edit... like it should have been in the first place.
I am really looking forward to that.
In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, a terrible affliction, er, afflicts the would-be dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield here. Chasing off the dragon Smaug and reclaiming the accumulated treasures of his people -- as had happened by the end of the second film -- isn't enough for Thorin (Richard Armitage). That's because he is in the grips of "dragon sickness," the same unshakeable compulsion that kept the dreadful reptile glued to the gold in the first place. It's a lust for riches in general and, in Thorin's case, for one particular gem, the Arkenstone, also known as the King's Jewel.
That no one here seems to think that name is snicker-worthy is a symptom of how solemn and humorless the flick is, which is a shame, because J.R.R. Tolkien's book is full of hearty humor. But never mind. The thing is, I now realize that Peter Jackson has been suffering from a similar compulsion for the past decade: "blockbuster sickness." I don't know how else to account for what he did to The Hobbit.
Jackson has failed to do for The Hobbit what he did for The Lord of the Rings, which isn't at all surprising because epicness was built into the latter, and was never in the former. All the problems of Jackson's Hobbits 1 and 2 remain here: Everything is forced and anticlimactic. It feels like nothing is at stake, because not much is. The five armies here -- humans, elves, dwarfs, orcs and eagles -- are fighting over the treasure in the mountain. There is no resonance for those of us watching, and there's no reason there couldn't have been: The world is being ruined by a lust for money and the power that money represents, and yet instead of this Hobbit feeling in any way meaningful, it feels like we're watching a videogame.
Peter Jackson has made it really tough to be a fan with his Hobbit movies. I like visiting Middle-earth. Thranduil riding a mighty elk like it's the Best Steed Ever is pretty cool. Martin Freeman is still the most hobbity hobbit possible. Hot guys cosplaying! But I'm sad that the most we can concede that Jackson has done here is to make a pale imitation of his own epic trilogy. Maybe I'll go watch that again now.