One last exhausting 'Hobbit' movie
Some people are going to love "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies."
This is a fairly safe statement since the first "Hobbit" movie earned over $1 billion worldwide and the second made $958 million.
And this movie certainly lives up to its title. There is a hobbit and there are indeed five armies, though much of the time it seems more like 15.
But the essential problem here is the same thing director and co-writer Peter Jackson has been struggling with this entire franchise. He has taken one none-too-thick book and stretched it into three overly long movies. The result is a great deal of noise serving as filler.
The titular battle in this movie seems like it lasts 120 of the film's 144 minutes. It probably isn't that long, but it sure feels like it. And, after the film's opening sequence, it is really the only thing that happens. For many, battle fatigue will surely settle in.
The story, such as it is: After Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his band of dwarves take back the treasure-filled mountain from the dragon Smaug, Smaug gets all fired up and lays waste to the nearby village (just reading that sentence is headache-inducing). The survivors flee to the abandoned city near the mountain.
But then apparently every creature in Middle Earth realizes, hey, there's a mountain filled with gold and only seven (or however many) dwarves guarding it. Let's go get us some!
So elves and humans and other dwarves and, of course, orcs by the orcload come a'charging, all running smack into one another for the big battle.
The situation is complicated somewhat fiercely when the mountain-holding dwarves' leader, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), is struck with a sort of gold fever and refuses to share any of the wealth with anyone, no matter how deserving.
Anyway — battle, battle, battle. Orcs screaming, elves looking shiny, dwarves wielding hammers, battle, battle. Gandalf shows up, Bilbo disappears and reappears thanks to his magic ring and battle, battle some more.
The repetition is draining, sure, but Jackson also seems to have lost much of the visual imagination that kept his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy engaging. Once you've seen one giant orc, you've pretty much seen them all.
And the lack of distinction between Bilbo's dwarves again adds to the indistinct fuzziness of the franchise. Who are these guys? In "Lord of the Rings" every character was distinct and recognizable; in "The Hobbit," most of the dwarves come off as window dressing.
Here's the good news: After what feels like three days, the movie ends. And there can't be another one.
Ha! Nice try. This is Hollywood. There can always be another one if there's money to be made.
Well, at least there won't be another one for a while.
'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies'
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images.
Running time: 144 minutes
"The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" (PG-13) At last Peter Jackson's over-stretched telling of this fantasy classic comes to an end with an exhausting, cacophonous and repetitive battle of elves and orcs and such. (144 minutes) GRADE: C-