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REVIEW OF THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES

2014 rating: **1/2
The first post-production buzz concerning the third HOBBIT was that it had another name...

Smaug Fully Loaded
No longer THERE AND BACK AGAIN, which is what Bilbo Baggins called his adventurous autobiography, the new title, BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES, is pretty self-explanatory. And on the visual end, the 3D is so clean and clear, losing the essential celluloid grain, the picture resembles a BBC Miniseries shot on video... But names and technology aside, there’s a good and a bad to this final installment of Peter Jackson’s nine-hour epic based on a relatively short novel, which at times felt like “butter stretched onto too much bread.”

At the conclusion of THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, the vengeful flying beast, after being awakened and thoroughly ticked off, was ready to paint the town flamethrower red. But the full-on dragon attack isn’t much. And followed by an hour of ponderous melodrama, the movie should have been retitled DAYS OF OUR DWARVES…

Nothing beats Tolkien Art
Either suffering along with Thorin Oakenshield and his greedy lust for gold, hearing tempting voices much like Bilbo and Frodo would for The Ring... or as bowman Bard incessantly whines about how his people are the Nots to Thorin’s Have… and the pointless romance between dashing Kili and love interest Tauriel: It’s both a blessing and a curse when the movie starts living up to the shiny new moniker:

For the Elves and humans are ready to fight Thorin, while those grotesque Orcs have it in for everyone, including a last minute dwarf army. But how can we spend two long hours on a battlefield?

"What about me?!?"
Veering off the rowdy front lines to take part in several personal bouts between key rivals are not only the best scenes, we finally get connected to the action and the characters – and the characters through their actions instead of endless expository dialogue (tying into LORD OF THE RINGS). Ironically enough, the most important player isn’t Bilbo, who seems peripheral at the end of his very own trilogy.

Initially hired by Dwarves as a burglar to steal the dragon’s gold, other than his stint with Smaug we never get to know him the way we did Frodo… or Sam. Which doesn’t mean Martin Freeman didn’t do a good job in the role. But if this ambitiously flawed saga were called OAKENSHIELD, it would have been literary blasphemy against creator J.R.R. Tolkien, sure, but Thorin's the one Peter Jackson chose to dwell on throughout. Bilbo was merely an employee. 
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