ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
There were a few too many spectacular tricks that made it difficult to suspend my disbelief.
- The tower that Legolas felled to create a bridge should have broken immediately after all the damage that was done to it; at the very least, Legolas ought to have catapulted himself to the stable rockside rather than battling on an unstable fallen bridge that should have collapsed much, much sooner.
- Legolas leaping from falling rock to falling rock as the bridge fell apart was also a bit over the top - only to be tolerated because elves are so light they can walk on top of any snowbank - but no consideration could overcome the five or more stones that Legolas leapt over, at least not when one has to watch the entire thing in slow-mo. If it had been in real-time, I might've thought "Whoa! What?!" but seeing every step was asking a little much of my intellect.
- Azog would not have been able to spring up out from under the ice; crawling with some difficulty would have been more realistic. I was actually expecting Thorin to stab Azog through the ice the way Azog pierced Thorin's foot, which also would have been more believable.
- The dwarves' emotional turmoil when they were not allowed to fight in the battle was understandable, but the addition of 13 dwarves should not have turned the tide into an absolute victory, no matter how emotionally uplifted the dwarves became when they rallied to their king. 20-1 odds (or whatever they were) are still 20-1 odds, especially when the enemy has fresh troops and your forces have been bearing the brunt of the battle the entire time.
- Speaking of incredible odds, when Thorin takes his three finest warriors with him to "cut the head off the snake," they come up against a throng of orcs - 100 to be exact. What does Thorin do? You two take care of them, catch up with us when you're done. Um...so I get that these are great warrior dwarves, but you're a little cavalier about 50-1 odds. I mean, King Theoden charged into the fray at Helms Deep with only a handful of warriors, but he knew he was going to his death (and he would have if Gandalf hadn't shown up with the Eorligas troops at the end there). This is especially confusing when Thorin and Legolas (and Kili and Tauriel) each spend a good 15 minutes or so trying - and almost failing - to take out one orc. I can believe that Legolas and Gimli could kill several hundred enemies throughout the course of the Battle of Helms Deep, but with 50 to 100 enemies charging you all at once, at least one of them is bound to get in a good hit.
- When Thorin cures himself of his Dragon Sickness (a problem in and of itself, I think), the dwarves use a giant bell to knock out the stones they spent all day and night fitting together like puzzle pieces. All of these stones magically fall across the moat to form a perfectly flat bridge for them to charge across. *facepalm*
- Thorin and Dain meeting in the middle of the battlefield, with really bad odds, and taking the time to hug as if they were inviting each other into their home for a pint. *doublefacepalm*
- Bard, a non-magical, non-thousands-of-years-old, non-elf, rescues his family in spectacular fashion by launching himself from an unsteady wooden cart (that's cruising over large chunks of rubble) and stabbing the beast while he's flying at X velocity through the air. And survives with nary a scratch.
I think that the outrageous finesse of the heroes might be what spoiled the film for me. There was nothing clever about it. The orcs weren't bested because of their arrogance or because they valued numbers over strategy; they were actually exceedingly well-prepared. It just so happens that the Eagles showed up and took out their magnificent secret battalion, which was mightily ignored and taken for granted; an ex deus machina if there ever was one. It's the heroes I was disappointed in. Poor planning, poor execution, poor diplomacy. I'm still not exactly sure why the elves and men didn't just leave the dwarves to die at the beginning, seeing as the odds were so terrible and there was no official alliance.
Apart from these crazy shenanigans, there wasn't a whole lot of character development; most of that was already established in the second film (the best of the three in my opinion). Tauriel and Kili were still attracted to each other, Legolas still pined after Tauriel, Thorin was corrupted and restored to his old self, Bilbo kept his bravery, Gandalf was Gandalf, and the dwarves hardly spoke at all.
The timing was also wonky. The dragon battle was surprisingly short and simple. The Necromancer battle was even more surprisingly short and simple. The Battle of the Five Armies was strangely interlaced with long drawn out scenes of Thorin's madness, short clips of battles, mini-battles, and duels, lots of slow-mo, and and lots of long pauses where a hero is spared from certain doom because the orcs are dumbstruck by an unexpected addition to the fray.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
All that being said, there were a few moments I really enjoyed.
- Dwalin's confrontation with Thorin. FINALLY! Someone besides Bilbo to stand up to the king and say it to his face! And yet, he said it with so much respect and pain, it was a beautiful moment.
- Bard stopping the villagers from lynching Alfrid after their town was destroyed. This, in tandem with his refusal to allow the villagers to basically crown him on the spot, made him incredibly attractive; a natural leader and the kind of man worth following.
- Legolas defying his father to his face, and his father's subsequent surprise and acquiescence. I'm kind of giggling inside that it took Legolas a few thousand years to have a teenage tantrum, and it was over a girl. I really liked how much Legolas's decision to leave home affected his stone-hearted father, and I appreciated their bittersweet farewell wave. I was confused at first why Thranduil would bring up Legolas's mother, when he reportedly never talks about her and the only time she was mentioned earlier was in a conversation Thranduil was not a part of. I ended up attributing Thranduil's comment to his son's departure, sharing something personal and important in an attempt to show his own affection for his son, so that they will not part on bad terms.
- They showed Thranduil finding Tauriel crying over Kili instead of having Legolas find her. I've had enough of angsty love triangles, and it gave the audience the opportunity to see the softer side of Thranduil, whether that side was always there or if he's grown from his encounter with his son. The audience already knows Legolas doesn't end up with her, at least not this side of The Undying Lands, we also know he was looking for her to make sure she was alive and unhurt, and in the end I really don't need to see the disappointment/sympathy on Legolas's face when I like him so much and want to give him a happy ending.
WHAT I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO SEE
I didn't understand why Bard continued to trust Alfrid with imporant tasks after the first TWO TIMES he proved he wasn't trustworthy. I would have also preferred if Bard's son had been given the chance to come into his own. Instead of having Bard continually stumble upon them in the chaos just in time to rescue them - which was distracting and nonsensical - it would have been inspiring to see the next generation take up the same kind of bravery and leadership by taking down a few trolls and saving his sisters.
Overall, I would give it 3/5 stars.