Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Battle of Five Sundries

So far I'd avoided the disgusting wreck we fans knew would round off the sorely disappointing Hobbit illogy, but if for nothing else than morbid curiosity, I was always going to wind up cringing through it at some point.


So. While it's sort of pointless to discuss the Battle of Five Armies as an adaptation or even a film (it doesn't qualify) its endless array of failings are better discussed as social or industry issues. Start with IMDB. As with any expensive movie, the front page is one gigantic glossy banner-ad attempting to overwhelm the viewer with grandiose imagery. Skip past the sensory overload, however, click the barely distinguishable "see all reviews" button buried somewhere between gigantic flame graphics and bragging about the sickening profits we've all contributed to this sick joke of a movie, and you can find out what some Tolkien fans actually thought about it. The first ten pages or so, filled by the die-hard fans who crammed into theaters in December hoping for some redemption after the shaky beginning and godawful second installment, range from "what did I just watch" to "piece of crap" and below. Ratings range from one to five stars out of ten.

Yet that's about a hundred or more well-informed, involved Tolkien readers. The rest of the 264,000 users who rated the movie gave it a 7.5/10. Such is the power of corporate propaganda. They were told this was something to like. Thus, they liked it (possibly on Facebook.) So, when discussing The Battle of Five Armies flick, it must be in these terms. What we've all watched was not a film but propaganda, a two-hour advertisement for Time Warner's various video game series exploiting their Tolkien license.

That aspect was fairly obvious (as I pointed out) with The Desolation of Smaug and is only somewhat more pronounced in the third part. Thorin vs. Azog plays out like any video game "boss fight" complete with the percentage-health determined combat phase transitions, for the most obvious example. Special effects are unnecessarily glossy so as to better reflect the conveniently cheap effects churned out for a video game series. Hey, let's make this a drinking game!
See how many video game tie-ins you can spot. Take a shot for each one. Liver failure imminent.

Other alterations were just regular Hollywood degradation. Peter Jackson has morphed into Jeph Jacques' prophetic Jimbo character somewhere along the way, and all those of us who complained about XenArwen ten years ago now have to admit it could've been much, much worse (but they didn't have to go and prove it!) I'll split off my comments on the movie's feminist pandering into another post. Eliminating the messenger thrush and replacing it with a heroic son for a heroic father just fits into the family/tribal lowest-common-denominator routine I complained about just days ago apropos of Interstellar. Aside from that, it was mostly a matter of cramming as many big names into a superproduction as per movie company standards, and quality be damned. Orlando Bloom just sells tickets.

However, the most astounding changes, those which led me to literally grit my teeth and groan until my jaw and chest hurt, were just the inexplicably random nonsense which litters every minute of this confused mess. For example, I get that they wanted a big scary monster type to put into video games afterwards... but why sandworms for the love of crap? Tolkien and Herbert share their readership only tangentially. You'd have been better off with taun-tauns and dinosaurs or something. And then, after shitting on Tolkien's corpse with that whiplash-inducing bullshit, after paying to create that special effect... they simply disappear and take no part in the fight.
Then we have Dain riding around on a pig because... I dunno, he bought an epic mount in Ironforge or something? Except the dwarven army makes no further use of pigs. What, they could only afford the one big pig?
Or take the missed opportunity to show Galadriel using her ring in the fight with Sauron, which would've been as simple as drawing a glowing ring on her finger in editing instead of a big blue flashing palm. That's ignoring everything else wrong with that scene, the least of which is the fact that they had all three elf-rings in one spot but Hugo Weaving was standing around like he forgot his lines.
Or take the fact that the studio didn't want to pay too many extras, so the movie about the Battle of Five Armies consists of a few zoomed-out CGI shots of rows of computer-generated faceless orcs, elves and dwarves plus all the video game boss fights which happen conveniently far away from more expensive choreography.

And on and on and on. I doubt we'll ever find out what really happened with this utterly despicable rape of a classic. I'm not sure if it's known exactly how much Peter Jackson was paid to ruin his reputation for the next decade, to become Jimbo the redneck fantasy writer. Or maybe he was a total moron to begin with and we need to comb the Lord of the Rings credits for the other writers, art directors and such who really made those films great. I don't know whether Christopher Tolkien is suing Time Warner for defamation or not. I don't know how many video game spin-offs they're selling to un-knowing ten-year-olds or whether the Jar-Jar Binks of middle-earth is actually a popular character.

I don't want to know. I'm done with this. It'll be a few weeks or months before I can think about Tolkien's stories without gnashing my teeth at dark memories of this utter pile of filth. I do have a couple more things to point out later in terms of its social effects but for now, fuck it. I can't even tell anyone not to watch it because we all already have, we've already paid into it. We've all supported this derogation of the author who created the modern fantasy genre. Chew on that.

I do feel obligated to mention the one good part of this movie. Back before watching the first part of the trilogy, during that period of anticipation and dread when we knew there were good odds it would turn out, y'know, like it has, I listed some possible saving graces. They included the song scene I wanted in the first movie, which thankfully leaves me one happy memory out of seven hours of boredom and infuriation. Mirkwood was unfortunately utterly forgettable and Smaug was decent but nothing to write home about. There's one last thing:
Yes, he should've been a bit pudgier and more hobbit-looking, but that was an art/directing choice. Martin Freeman, for his part, has done a thorough job with the character in all three movies and thank you, thank you for that, Mr. Freeman. You were the one outstanding positive in a ceaseless negative.

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