Quality: This score indicates entertainment value.
0 stars is horrible, while 5 stars is spectacular.
Political: This score addresses political messaging.
0 stars is aggressively anti-Conservative, while 5 stars is highly pro-Conservative. 3 stars is apolitical.
Moral/Religious (M/R): This score addresses moral and religious messaging.
0 stars is either intensely immoral or all-out, needless assault on Christianity. 5 stars is either great moral messaging or highly pro-Christian. 3 stars is inoffensive either way.
Quality – 2.5 stars, Political – 3 stars, M/R – 4 stars
Honestly, this is no “Lord of the Rings.” We all cared for Frodo, Sam, Legolas the Elven Archer, Gimli the Dwarf, King Aragorn and his Elf honey, Arwen. Captivated by their lives, we sat through “Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers,” and “The Return of the King”—which, to my knowledge, hasn’t ended yet. For nearly 10 hours, we stayed with those films longer than most Hollywood couples stay married. Why? We were invested in the players.
This feels different.
It’s not like “Battle of Five Armies” lacks strong acting. On the contrary, it’s superb. Martin Freeman is a terrific Bilbo; one moment brave, the next terrified, and often wise. Ian McKellen completes a wondrous run as Gandalf the Wizard, Benedict Cumberbatch voices the wicked Smaug, and Richard Armitage impresses as the conflicted Dwarf King, Thorin Oakenshield.
Then of course, some old stand-by’s (Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving) recapture their youths through an unholy alliance of CGI and Botox. Their faces are Ken doll smooth, though a bit stiff. When they speak, it’s like watching C3PO from Star Wars.
What’s missing? Tough to say, but Frodo had one big advantage over Bilbo: Frodo had Sam. Whereas “Lord of the Rings” centered on camaraderie and tension between two good friends, “Hobbit” depicts a solitary Bilbo amidst distant players. Perhaps, with no compelling bond in the middle, “Hobbit” struggles to develop chemistry throughout.
The result? Plenty of fireworks, but little fire. Still, the fireworks are pretty cool.
The previous film (Desolation of Smaug) concluded abruptly, apparently due to a film break. Picking up there, the evil—but stunning—dragon Smaug descends in a vicious—but stunning—attack on the human village of Lake-town. Smaug apparently blames humans for the previous movie—as do I—so his assault seems at once cruel but reasonable.
Meanwhile, having retaken the mountain Smaug left, Thorin comes down with “dragon sickness”—obsessive greed midst a veritable lake of gold. Spawning division amongst dwarves, men, and elves, Thorin’s greed fractures the alliance which must confront an oncoming horde of orcs and other baddies. War approaches. Evil is focused, bent on destruction. And Good? It’s splintered and petty. Pardon my political reference, but one would think Thorin is a paid advisor for today’s Conservative Movement. Thanks to him, the coalition seems ill-prepared against a single-minded swarm.
But as so often happens in the face of certain doom, allies—even unsteady ones—rally to the fray. The final “Battle of the Five Armies” is awesome, tragic, and a useful precursor to the “Lord of the Rings” series. While this prequel fails to strike the triumphant note of that better-known successor, it does the best it can—especially given less-beloved characters. The prolonged ending, however, is downright brutal.
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” might be worth watching. It might even be worth renting. It will not, however, be worth remembering.