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Old 12-09-2014, 08:33 PM   #4
Legate of Amon Lanc
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So, where to start? I should probably start by confirming that my expectations for the film were very, very low. You could probably find my reviews of the earlier films somewhere around here, for comparison.

With this one, having seen the trailer before, I expected something very terrible. Generally speaking, it was what I had seen in the trailer, plus a few more things in the same tone. However, during and after the film, I found myself pretty indifferent to all the bad things PJ does and keeps doing all over and over again. If you know what PJ's films are like, you can just shrug off most of the bad things in The Battle of the Five Armies, because I haven't spotted anything unexpected (or even expected) which would be significantly worse than anything we'd seen before.

So with all that, I can quickly skim past: badly handled plot, zero dialogue (reduced to few one-liners, much like in the previous films), ridiculous wannabe-action scenes, and characters also reduced to more or less those one-liners they deliver. These are all PJ's classic fails and they were, of course, present. All the time.

What was surprising? That out of the things listed above, the ridiculous action scenes were actually far better than in the previous films (in the sense that they were less overused and less violent and less self-serving. Maybe that's one of the reasons why this film was so drastically shorter than the others).

Now for more general summary of the plot. I should probably just say first that overall, my image of this film has been quite positive. As in, positive in the context of PJ's creation. And skipping the things mentioned above, which of course form about 80% of the film. So with that said, feel free to read on.

The start and the Dragon. The film started really fast, and I think that was good. I had assumed they have to get rid of the dragon fairly early, but they did it soon and without too much unnecessary buzz, even though of course the obligatory "ha ha ha, you are dead, fool, you cannot kill me" and a bit pathetic family drama had to be present. What was nice was actually the inclusion of Bard's children into the plot, even though of course it's the cheapest thing in Hollywood to put in a cute little kid and a bit of family drama. Despite that I think this was done well.
So, unexpected surprise: Unnecessary filling 90% less than in usual Peter Jackson. Inclusion of minor characters actually doing something.

Then we follow with the somewhat chaotic heap of happenings aka the main plot pre-Battle, which essentially doesn't stop until the end of the film. "We must find the Arkenstone and Thorin is being weird." "The Orcs are coming and nobody knows about it." "The Men are coming." "Tauriel and Legolas are going somewhere for unknown reasons." "The Orcs are coming and somebody knows about it." "We still haven't found the Arkenstone, but Bilbo remembers he actually has it and reminds the audience why. Thorin is still weird." "Gandalf is still in Dol Guldur." "The Orcs are coming and for example Legolas knows about it, but he's in Angmar. Why?" "The Elves are coming." "The Dwarves are still looking for the Arkenstone and Thorin is probably evil." This goes mostly for the 80% of bad dialogue, bad plot etc. that I mentioned above.

The Arkenstone subplot (and, in fact, the whole "Thorin's greed" arc) was actually one of the worst things in the whole film, because it did not make any sense at all. Quite bad given that it was the main plot of the film.
Let's see: At first, Thorin wants the Arkenstone and Bilbo keeps it hidden because he's afraid it would make things only worse. Thorin's state keeps getting worse even without it, while Bilbo gets a confirmation that giving the Arkenstone to Thorin would really make things even worse. So what he does is to give the Arkenstone to Bard with the intent that he would give it back to Thorin. The funniest part is, that that is the last moment we see the Arkenstone. Why? I can understand, for example, at least adding final scene with Thorin's tomb and Arkenstone on it would prove confusing given how the Arkenstone was presented in the film, but still - the first half of the film is about the Arkenstone and then it just disappears? Especially since in the first film, we already had the flashback to Thrór/Thráin, which made it clear that the Arkenstone is important, and made it seem like that it's something akin to the Rings of Power in its both positive and negative influence.
It seems to me as if the creators couldn't decide whether the cause of the "Dragon-sickness" is actually the whole heap of gold or the Arkenstone (aka "small Ring"). It makes for a very illogical development of the whole issue of Thorin's downfall.

Then The Battle itself. There isn't so much to say. Seen that before, mostly in Helm's Deep (Elves, namely Wood-Elves, shouldn't fight like an army of robots, but we did see that coming, didn't we). But the battle scenes, despite some being silly and the battle being rather illogical, were decent. I would highlight the realistic "command post"-signaling of the Orcs. And I would highlight Fili's death, that was so horrible and sad (from the point of view of Bilbo and the rest of the Dwarves, especially his brother), that actually made me remain silent for a few minutes.
I would of course diss the nonsensical things. The reinforcements straight from Frank Herbert's Dune. Azog's impractical homemade flail. Building and breaking stone-bridges, ice-bridges, stone-barricades and other barricades.
One more honorable mention: Super Mario... I mean Legolas. I actually started to like his stunts. For pure amusement value, it's so absurd that you have to enjoy it. Before the film, we actually made predictions and I said: "Do you seriously think Legolas will trump his stunts from LotR? What can he possibly do better than surfing on a shield and climbing oliphaunts? Will he start climbing bats?" Bingo.

The closing had some of the best scenes in the whole film. Basically after the battle ended, except for the scenes with the Elves, everything was nice. Gandalf and Bilbo sharing a smoke, for example, I much prefer it to LotR's Hobbits jumping on beds. What also pleasantly surprised me was no "fake endings" akin to RotK, that's probably why this film was so short.

Things I should mention, but which don't really belong to any cathegory? Definitely Thorin's psychedelic vision of a golden trampoline, I seriously don't know what to think of it.
I am sure somebody else will mention this, but a big surprise was no more Bombur jokes in the whole film. So peculiar.

So what was unforgivable?
Mirroring Tauriel's tale to that of Arwen. Maybe I am too slow, I got it only in the last scene that it was probably meant to be all about that. One loved a mortal Man, another a mortal Dwarf, both shared this tragedy, oh how sad. Nothing against tragedy of the Elves, but loving a Dwarf... I don't feel I need to mention anything more about the whole "romantic subplot". I am sure others will do it for me. Sufficient to say, in the second film, I had hoped it was a semi-nonserious platonic nonsense. Apparently, not at all.
P.S. I am curious how many of the audience originally assumed Tauriel to have died in the battle. I did until I saw her alive and well all of a sudden.

And one more thing I had almost forgotten - what in the name of Arien happened to the well-known physical weakness of trolls, turning into stone in sunlight?

Things I liked which were faithful to the books? There were several (of course not too many), but I will point out those I liked the most:

Dáin's speech to the Elves was in spirit straight from the book, even though it had to be said aloud literally, in the book the narrator provides the ingenuity of Dwarven diplomacy. But I approved of handling that small bit that way.

The auction. 150% approval. Merely including it was really lovely, and including it on such a scale (a whole, quite long scene in terms of all) was even better, and incorporating Bilbo's rememberance of Thorin into it (an original input by the filmmakers) was really a good thing to do. (Incorporating Lobelia's spoons was a bit of the easy-to-do fan service, but appreciated nonetheless.)

And I will mention the White Council's appearance in Dol Guldur, despite... its visual... and other... sillyness, it's one of my favourite events in the Middle-Earth history, and I have deep personal liking of it and my own ideas of what might have happened there, which no visualisation can match, but I was nonetheless happy to see the White Councillors "in their full power". Despite the fact that I deeply dislike green Galadriel with computer-altered voice, but her epic appearance (as well as that of the other members) was not overshadowed even by the shadows in psychedelic shroud of the Eye.

Edit: This has been my 6,666th post. I wonder if that's supposed to stand for something.
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Last edited by Legate of Amon Lanc; 12-09-2014 at 08:49 PM.
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