I’ll do my best to refrain from spoilers, even though you know, how can you really spoil a movie that’s about a book that is older than I am (and I’m no spring chicken-cluck! cluck!)?
First off, let me just say how much I loved, loved, loved, the first three LOTR movies. They are my “comfort food” of movies; I watch them when I’m sick- and they’re perfect. They are so long that by the time I finish watching all three of the extended versions, I’m well on my way to recovery. (I sleep for all the Treebeard sequences, and wake up to watch Aragorn and Legolas running beautifully through Middle Earth).
Count me among the skeptics when I doubted that the prequels would be able to deliver what the original trilogy did for sheer entertainment. And you know, skepticism rewarded! But at least the first two managed to hold together a semblance of something familiar and loved. I made allowances because frankly, I just wanted to see more of Middle Earth. Like going to a once favorite restaurant that has gone downhill. But hey, the breadsticks are still good!
Well, sad to say, the breadsticks are stale by this last, and one hopes, final glimpse of Middle Earth.
The good news; I thought the actors really did a great job. It’s easy to overlook this, because these types of movies are about spectacle. It’s even more amazing considering the frequent lack of physical sets or other actors to play against (more on the obviousness of this later). However, it’s unfortunate that they were emoting such big emotions, because I had already completely forgotten what they were upset about. I wonder if it’s even possible for those of us who didn’t have the book engraved into long term memory to care. The only thing I remembered about the previous movie; The Desolation of Smaug, was that there was a big dragon. Arkenstone? What’s an Arkenstone? Who’s that? Why is she upset? Why is he crying? What’s going on?
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, turned me into my mom while watching it.
For those of you just looking for a VFX spectacle, well… Here’s the thing, it would have been nice for some visual consistency. The original movies had a lot of actual sets and more real actors. While I understand the desire to green screen a lot of backgrounds (more flexibility, and a lot of extra details), when these shots are juxtaposed next to natural shots of the actors walking in the beautiful outdoors, it shows. The green screened shots are stylized in lighting and tone. The outdoor ones, are not. There’s an odd gloss to the former that made me think of “Sky Captains, World of Tomorrow”. It’s not terrible, but it’s a really different look. If they had all the VFX shots labled as “Bilbo Baggins’ Dream Sequence”, I might have been okay with it.
Overall, this movie just feels hectic. Look over there elves! Now dwarves! Now people! Now, really odd slapstick! Children in peril! Wait, I can’t keep track, who, what?
Towards the end, Peter Jackson had thrown so many showy moments at the audience, I felt like he was trolling us.
My recommendation is that if you really need a new LOTR fix, watch the really great publicity that was done for this movie’s release. Stephen Colbert interviewed Smaug, and also wrote a lovely article in Entertainment Weekly about the entire franchise.
And SNL did a great LOTR, “The Office” mashup, that’s been making the rounds.
But I know you’re still going to go see it. So for a management of expectations scale, it’s still not Transformers bad.