The modern world is a cruel dystopia of relentless crushing banality. Our jobs are boring, our social lives have been commodified into barren online networks, and our culture is a pathetic commercial wasteland. Even our movies suck – at least, most of them.
That’s why the odds were always stacked against Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy – prequels to one of the most beloved film series of our time. The Lord of the Rings offered a moment of bright escapism in the dismal first decade of the century. It made our lives less terrible, if only for a few hours, and that’s the impossible standard miserable audiences are still holding Jackson to today. It’s cold outside, we’ve lost our jobs, the kids have run away, everything delicious is poison, the house is probably burning down, and if a costume drama about a bunch of elves can’t make us forget all of this then it’s somehow the movie’s fault.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is an insane virtuoso straight-up masterpiece, an artistic achievement of world-historical proportions. Peter Jackson has cemented his legacy as the greatest living director, perhaps even in history, consigning greats like Bergman and Hitchcock to utter obscurity. Scholars will pore over the film for decades to come, and grumpy nerds who can’t be satisfied will find themselves alienated and isolated from a completely transformed society in the post-Hobbit world.
This is a film where a gargantuan, apocalyptic battle with one of literature’s greatest monsters – Smaug, the fire-breathing dragon and the Greatest of Calamities, stunningly rendered and operatically voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch – is merely how everything begins. This is a film where even an infinitesimally minor passage – such as Tolkien’s passing reference to the White Council – is transformed into a colossal spectacle dwarfing the most ambitious climaxes of other films. This is a film that ascends from the tiny plight of a single Hobbit to the grand march of armies – five of them – with the microscopic introspection and astronomically boundless scope of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Ordinarily it is the critic who judges the artistic work, but Five Armies is the rare achievement by which the critics themselves will be judged. I, at least, know better than to embarrass myself by trying to shower the film with adequate praise. I don’t know how, and I’m not going to try.
But I will try one thing: I’ll try to express my sheer pity and utter contempt for the bizarre genre of critic who has anything but love for The Hobbit.
Imagine being the sort of joyless, pedantic nerdlinger crybaby who somehow doesn’t like this movie. Glowering as the credits roll with arms folded, whining that Thranduil’s pronunciation when he spoke in Sindarin was slightly inaccurate since the Mirkwood dialect places greater emphasis on the final vowel. You stomp back home, lock the door so that none of your obnoxious kids disturb you, and crank out a billion word Reddit post that earnestly uses words like “heresy” and “betrayed”.
Attention haters: Bilbo Baggins isn’t here to fix your disastrous personal life, or to provide clinical therapy for your unfortunate mood disorder, or to lend meaning to a cold dark universe that will eventually expand into nothing. He’s a fictional character who lives in a hole in the ground and goes on adventures with a magic wizard. Try to enjoy storytime, and if you’re still unhappy after the movie, write a billion word Reddit post criticizing yourself.
RATING: ONE HUNDRED STARS.
Jacob Fawcett is an editor at the Baltimore Post Examiner.