The 400-Word Review - The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

By Sean Collier

December 18, 2014

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Indulgence is the operative word with Peter Jackson’s soporific exercise in Smaug-esque money-grabbing. It was indulgent to divide the simple story of The Hobbit into three films. It was indulgent to shoot in three muddy dimensions when two were more than sufficient for the infinitely better “Lord of the Rings” films. And in the (blessedly) final chapter of the series, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the most blatant indulgences yet are thrust upon the audience.

For starters: the decent thing to do would’ve been to make this ultimate film a two-hour action blitz, launching straight into action and not relenting until the time came for a brief epilogue. And while Five Armies does have the most action of any of the three films (thus rendering it the inglorious champion of the set), Jackson and his long-winded screenwriting team (himself, obviously, along with Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro) don’t even have the decency to keep things breezy. Instead, much of the Five Armies is spent on dwarven hand-wringing, as Bilbo’s compatriots waste time on a go-nowhere subplot about head honcho Thorin’s moral compass.

But yes, there is action. There’s a reasonably interesting, village-obliterating dragon fight that opens the film, and the titular battle fills up about 45 minutes. These sequences, while no longer at the vanguard of visual effects as the “Rings” films were, are watchable and often exciting bits of violent choreography. While the invading orcs are about as difficult to mow down as confused squirrels — Bilbo takes out a few with limp-armed rock throwing — there is no need to complain about the action of Five Armies.


Even at that, though, tonal problems abound. Several key moments in up-close fighting felt more like slapstick than bloody combat (thanks, PG-13 rating), and dramatic scenes drew laughs more than once in my screening.

At a few points, Five Armies even thinks to write in repetitive teases for the next film in the series, ignoring the fact that that film came out 13 years ago. I sincerely hope that those original films, all legitimate classics, can eventually shed their connection to this much lesser trilogy. In time, the three “Hobbit” films will be thought of in the same way that we now think of the disastrous “Star Wars” prequels. With any luck, these films will one day be revisited as infrequently as The Phantom Menace.

My Rating: 5/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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