I finally got a chance to watch The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) this weekend. I think it would be fair to say that it was cut from the same cloth as the other two films in that trilogy but, sadly, that isn’t a strong recommendation.
I thought Peter Jackson and his team on the three parts of The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003), taking the single-most influential epic fantasy story of the twentieth century and recreating the story, characters and locations on film. It wasn’t a substitute for reading the book but trod a worthy line between respect and creativity. It couldn’t include everything from Tolkien’s trilogy and had to extend a few scenes to work in some back story but I regard it as a successful effort.
My perspective is that there are two main problems with the Hobbit films. Firstly, rather than having to trim the original material, the screenwriters have had to add a lot of padding to what was a much shorter, simpler book. They have done this partly from other parts of Tolkien’s Middle Earth canon but also by introducing new characters such as Tauriel. Secondly, while the CGI work is impressive, it leans towards theme park fun rather than realism. The Hobbit was a children’s book but I found a lot of the scenes merely childish. While there are hints of the cost of war, lightly armed, untrained townsfolk seem to do remarkably well in standing up to a horde of heavily armoured, muscular and bestial orc warriors.
While I was keen to get the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings films, which took the total length to about 12 hours, I think I’d most like to watch Jackson’s version of The Hobbit again if someone could shrink it down to a single film running for a couple of hours or so.