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I am not the target demographic for films based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m a nerd, but not that kind of D&D nerd. While impressive in scope and unparalleled in its beautiful landscape porn, The Lord of the Rings trilogy was painfully long, boring, and overly dramatic. After only watching bits and pieces from the equally boring initial installment of The Hobbit, I completely checked out and ignored The Desolation of Smaug. I’ve never watched any of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies in a theater.

Why would I watch the finale of The Hobbit?

An experiment: can The Battle of the Five Armies stand alone as its own movie?

Although the finer details were lost, the answer to the question above is yes. The Battle of the Armies is completely suitable by itself without the 4-5 hours of backstory and fluff from the first two films.

That’s an achievement for Peter Jackson and also a condemnation. Sure, he’s a visionary and it’s scary to think how The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit would have turned out without his direction. But can someone get this man an editor? The Battle of the Five Armies did not need to approach 2 1/2 hours.

Frankly, even I could have done without the flashbacks and spoon-feeding of backstory. If those previous scenes were so important to establish motivations, then the viewers would remember that from the previous films. Don’t curtail and appeal to someone like me that didn’t watch the first two films.

But that speaks to the problem with The Hobbit: there’s way too much fluff and it’s entirely too long. Everyone knows The Hobbit did not need to be broken up into a trilogy. Good luck arguing that point with a studio and convincing them not to print money each time The Hobbit comes to theaters. The Battle of the Five Armies has been an unstoppable force at the top of the box office during a coveted Christmas stretch.

Smaug

The action is underway quickly in the opening sequence as Smaug is laying waste to what I understand is Laketown—easy enough since it is a town on a lake. For some reason, Dracula (Luke Evans playing a human character called Bard) is rotting in a jail cell until he breaks free by throwing a rope to strangle some rich prick fleeing in a boat with all of the town’s gold. Dracula then must kill the dragon and drink his blood.

I’m pretty sure he shot him with the pointy end of a sturdy metal fencepost.

With no more Smaug the Terrible for everyone to fear, armies are streaming towards the Lonely Mountain for the dragon’s hoard of dwarf gold. Apparently, there are five armies. Don’t ask me to name them. But there are a ton of elves pissed at dwarves with a ragtag group of men with shitty spears and swords just hanging around watching. I think there’s a sparkly gem at the heart of this disagreement.

Bard

Right before heads are ready to be split open, massive Middle-earth-eating monster warms crash through the mountains. Imagine the creatures from Tremors, but exponentially larger and meaner.

Oh shit! How are the good guys going to defeat the bad guys when they have these monsters leading the way in front of ever-flowing flanks of orcs? Don’t worry, those creatures just slink away and disappear off-screen. There are some very bizarre sequences, including two dwarves putting down their weapons mid-battle for a moment so they can hug. And Legolas jumps Super Mario-style from bricks crumbling off a breaking bridge to Hurricanrana one of the orc leaders. Yes, that actually happened.

Blah

Overall, there’s some entertaining action and the pace is swift enough. Your ass still feels the long runtime when in an uncomfortable theater chair. If you take this movie for the big dumb sci-fi spectacle that it embodies, then you should enjoy this experience. While I did go back and watch The Desolation of Smaug afterwards, it wasn’t necessary since the first two films from The Hobbit ended with extremely unsatisfying non-resolutions. I feel like I picked the correct one to watch in a theater.

Droves of dorks, nerds, and families of dorks and nerds will always come out to watch these movies. If another movie or series of movies based on Tolkien’s The Silmarillion gets released, then that too will print money. It’s an incredibly lucrative franchise and it makes too much sense for it to not happen at some point in the future—though probably not with Peter Jackson at the helm. And that’s a good thing.

Personally, I’m interested in seeing what will come next for Peter Jackson. He’s built a film industry in New Zealand as a result of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. But that’s eaten up more than a decade of Jackson’s time. This is a man who created two of the best horror comedies with Braindead (Dead Alive) and The Frighteners. Despite delving into the big budget PG-13 blockbuster world for the last 10+ years, Peter Jackson should be making more creative R-rated movies with all of the “fuck you” money he has made from adapting J.R.R. Tolkien works. Please, just no bloated 3-hour mess like King Kong.

While Peter Jackson certainly put his stamp on these movies, Martin Freeman is the best part of The Hobbit. Because of his impeccable comedic timing and nuanced facial expressions, Bilbo Baggins is an interesting and ultimately likable character. If you did not stick through the prolonged stretches of the Fargo television show, then you probably aren’t aware of Martin Freeman’s incredible acting. He’s always phenomenal in every work. I’m all in with my Martin Freeman stock. Remember his name but forget his role in this romp.

The Hobbit is entertaining enough and tolerable if you take it as a stupid tongue-in-cheek spectacle.

Tongue In Cheek

3 out of 5 stars

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