Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Note: there will be spoilers, but you know that already. It's a review.

Drawing from XantheUnwinArt

Oh Peter Jackson. What to say. 

Against my better judgement, I went to see the final Hobbit installment with my husband and a couple of friends. Since my expectations were so low, I liked it more than I anticipated. There was a definite improvement from the first Hobbit movie (I didn't see the second one because the first traumatized me). That said, the usual Jackson problems were in there in abundance.

Ridiculous, gravity-defining Orlando Bloom stunt that looked like a rip-off from Mario Cart? Check. 

CGI bunny sled of doom that rushes in to save the day? Check.

Galadriel going all Satanic-eyes on us before fainting? Check. 

Plus, this time we had an absurd dwarf/elf/dwarf love triangle. I already knew about that one going in; however, it was worse than I thought possible. The love interest couple wasn't drawn too poorly (although, the dwarf was sexier than a dwarf has a right to be). But when Tariel cries over her beloved's dead body, she asks her elf brother Faren why love has to hurt so much. Faren, who has spent the entire film mocking Tariel and her love for a mortal, has a sudden change of heart and says "because it was real," and the emoting fairly seeps onto the audience. At that point I started rolling my eyes.

In general, however, the film fails because it elicits the exact opposite desired emotion at every turn. The battle scenes, which are supposed to be awe-inspiring in all their CGI glory, are unintentionally hilarious because every other minute another troll or orc trips on his own feet or runs headlong into a stone wall. The emotional love scenes are embarrassing, not just for the kids in the audience, but for adults who have seen good acting and directing. The scenes where Thorin screams about gold are so obvious and overplayed that it gets tiresome rather than thought-provoking. Jackson has a hammer called "thou shalt not be greedy" (unless you're stretching one book into three movies) which he swings at every opportunity. I've heard revival sermons that were less dogmatic. 

What annoyed me the most, however, was his treatment of women. As a feminist, I have no problem with a film without women, especially if the source material calls for it. Truly, it would not bother me in the slightest if Jackson had left out his elf-love creation and let Galadriel stay in the earlier films. Instead, he puts women into the script at random intervals, as if checking off boxes on his feminist sheet, with no regard for the actual plot. 

What's worse than a film without women? A film in which Bard's teenage daughters cower and shriek at every turn while his young son heroically climbs to the tower where Bard faces off with Smaug. A film in which a lady character is created out of nowhere to form an insipid love triangle that no one cares about. A film in which the unfunny "comic relief" character shows how cowardly he is by dressing in drag, while a group of brave women tell him to "be a man" as they rush into battle. Because courage is what men (and a few tomboyish women) have, and the best way to show a man's cowardice is to show his slip. 

There were positives too though. On the whole, it had more get-up-and-go than the first Hobbit movie and did a better job of engaging the audience. Benedict Cumberpatch was splendid as Smaug, as everyone expected: those scenes were by far the best. Some have criticized Martin Freeman for his lack of emotion, but that misses the point. Hobbits are known for their stolid, practical nature, for combining tough-as-nails interiors with plump, comfortable bodies. In a film loaded with excess, Freeman's Bilbo was a breath of fresh air. I also liked the ending, with its comfortable return to Hobbiton and gentle humor. I feared that Jackson would mangle the concept of "There and Back Again," but it was nicely done. 

Tolkein, be glad you weren't there to see it. RIP, old friend.

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