I have seen the hill on which I die; I have seen the banner which flies above it. I have read the words on that banner, the same words which will, I expect, adorn my tombstone, words which have never made anyone better loved but which have become a mantra, words which I have spoken a thousand times in vain: “That’s not in the book”.
The third Hobbit movie, ‘The Battle of The Five Armies’, is also the worst, a particularly ignominious end to an already-bad trilogy. The special effects are cheesy, the writing is abysmal, the acting is insufficient, and it is years too long. However, the most urgent problem, one which is the most pronounced in this third installment, is that it isn’t ‘The Hobbit’!
‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ has characters, scenes, battles, sub-plots, creatures, and romances which are not in ‘The Hobbit’, by J.R.R. Tolkien, and for which lack that book suffers not at all.
I suppose it is the old story: absolute power corrupts absolutely. Peter Jackson probably had something very like absolute creative power over the Hobbit movies, and the movies themselves have paid the price for that.
It must have required a monstrous, overweening arrogance to roll up to ‘The Hobbit’, a small, cinematic jewel of a book, penned by no less an eminence than Tolkien, and to say, “I know what this needs: Legolas, some elf-on-dwarf action, and yet more roles for Benedict Cumberbatch’. All of these impulses were badly wrong, and it is startling that they should have been the impulses of the man who adhered so slavishly to the master’s text in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies. Between those movies and these, someone convinced Peter Jackson that he had better creative vision than Tolkien. He had not.
‘The Hobbit’ was a tight, sweet little book, which could have made a lovely movie if Jackson had not determined that it be a swollen prelude to the ‘Lord of the Rings’, continuous in tone and character and preposterously identical in length.
But, despite its miserable badness and its total lack of integrity, ‘The Battle of The Five Armies’ made nearly $55 million its opening weekend in the United States alone, reaching a worldwide gross of $100 million in only four days. I am alone on my hill, obviously, one confused and indignant voice talking to absolutely no one: “But none of that was in the book!”
Image taken from tolkienbooks.net.
‘The Hobbit‘, by J.R.R. Tolkien.