The third Hobbit movie picks up right where the second one left off, with the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacking Laketown. In all honesty, I have no idea why these first fifteen minutes weren’t just tacked onto the end of the last film. The rest of the film documents the battle for the Lonely Mountain amongst the armies of dwarves, elves, humans, and orcs. From what I understand, this battle takes up ten pages in the book. Director Peter Jackson has stretched it out to over two hours of running time. And while the battle is suitably spectacular—as well as never ending—and this film comes the closest to capturing the magic of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the whole endeavor feels hollow.
The same criticisms from the previous film remain: the heroes are all unstoppable superheroes, robbing the film of any real drama, the romance subplot is laughably forced, and if I had a gun to my head, I probably couldn’t tell you the names of the dwarves. Speaking of the dwarves, I feel like this film, like the last one, should be called The Dwarf, because Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is hardly the main character. That would be Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), who is possessed with greed and suspicion. None of the other dwarves are half as compelling as characters despite the filmmakers’ obsession with trying to establish the forced romance between Kili (Aidan Turner) and the elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). It’s a case of sticking two characters together and telling the audience “they’re in love,” but nothing in their “relationship” is really earned—see: Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala. Finally, when your heroes are all unstoppable death machines, the film kind of loses a lot of dramatic tension. Literally, at one point in the film, the thirteen dwarves join the battle and turn the tide in a battle with thousands of participants. Also, I found that I didn’t really care about any of these characters. Certain ones, well, you know their fates because this is a prequel—I have to say, though, that the wrap up of the return of Sauron was pretty cool—but for the dwarves, I just didn’t care. As I said, Thorin was compelling, but he’s also an asshole. The others, I couldn’t have cared less about. This is the exact opposite of Lord of the Rings, where I cared about each and every member of the Fellowship. These characters didn’t resonate with me, but that’s probably because The Hobbit is a loosely told children’s story, while Lord of the Rings is a deep and involving epic—the latter is just a better story and is actually long enough for three movies.
The cast does a fine enough job. Freeman, again, is great as Bilbo…at least when he’s on the screen, while Armitage captures Thorin’s mood swings very well. Ian McKellen is good as always as Gandalf and Lee Pace channeled a bit of Ronan the Accuser as Thranduil, the father of Legolas (Orlando Bloom).
Overall, while the battle itself is a nice spectacle, it doesn’t need a two and a half hour film to show it. Peter Jackson and the studio really milked this one for all it’s worth and the films suffered for it. The Hobbit just isn’t as engaging a story as Lord of the Rings and it certainly didn’t need almost nine hours of running time to tell it. This is probably the best of the three, but each one has their bright spots. It just would have been nice if Jackson had actually made a single film based on The Hobbit and not “Prequel to Lord of the Rings.”
Be sure to check out Episode 15 of the podcast, which is all about The Hobbit films and Lord of the Rings!