The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies | The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Episode 5
Violent endings and beginnings
MOVIE REVIEW // The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Movie summary: Bilbo and company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness. (IMDb)
In my scoring guide (link on the right of the page), I explain that a 5/10 can mean that a movie is simply either pretty much of average quality from start to finish or that it has poor moments that cancel out the good (or vice versa if you'd prefer). The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies definitely falls into the latter category, with some genuinely great moments cancelled out by some shockingly bad material.
This movie isn't helped by the fact that the first two movies weren't great anyway, so it doesn't have any particularly great foundations to build on - and it's too late to rectify things as all the plot lines are dealt with and tidied up. The quickest piece of the puzzle is the Necromancer plot, with the White Council (Galadriel, Saruman and Elrond) storming Sauron's fortress of Dol Guldur to rescue Gandalf.
While it's fun to see these leaders take action rather than leaving events to others as in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it feels strangely dismissive of the bigger conflict in the future to have it over and done with so quickly. I don't know how you could do such an important part of Middle-Earth's history justice in a movie ostensibly about entirely-unrelated events, which suggests maybe it shouldn't have been here at all.
The same can be said for including Legolas and name-checking Strider just because; Tauriel's 'relationship' with Kili still proving a waste of time; and especially Ryan Gage's Alfrid, who is an irritation every time he's on-screen and somehow he gets to walk away despite being an unquestionably selfish and antagonistic character. I know there's a fan cut of the movie trimming the trilogy down to 4 hours and it's really easy to see where huge chunks of time could've been saved.
As for the titular battle, that's one of the high points - at least, to begin with. As men, dwarves, elves and orcs face off, the fighting is taken seriously and it does feel at times bigger in scale and more desperate than anything in The Lord of the Rings. There's a very real sense of threat and that the heroes are genuinely out-matched by opponents who are simply better than them for once.
However, when the battle begins to fragment into smaller parts as the action focuses on the characters is when the quality drops. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you cared about everyone involved and why they were fighting, which isn't the case here - there were moments I wished would hurry up and be gone because I had so little interest in the people being shown, primarily Bard and the survivors of Lake-town.
The main person I cared about in all the fighting was Bilbo, once again being brilliantly brought to life by Martin Freeman, and he doesn't even do that much fighting. The quiet moments with the hobbit are the best parts of the movie - including one of the funniest when Thranduil (Lee Pace) accuses him of stealing the keys to free the dwarves in the previous movie and all he can reply with is an awkward, drawn-out "Yes."
He's so good that when he's there for the death of an important figure, it feels like a genuinely emotional moment despite the fact that I don't think the story of the trilogy really justifies what Bilbo says - Martin Freeman is just that good in the role that he convinces you it's true anyway. He's easily the best thing about this trilogy and it's such a shame that the other parts simply can't live up to his excellence.
The rest of The Battle of the Five Armies is much like the rest of the trilogy and turns out to be a real mixed bag, which I guess is fitting really. It's difficult to say whether to recommend this movie or not, because I think it might work better on its own than having watched the other two first - the bad stuff might not seem so bad if this is your first exposure to it and the good stuff is so good that you might unconsciously fill in the blanks about what led up to the events here and make it seem even better.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies really does end the trilogy in grand style, if not a very high quality one, lurching from poor to sublime constantly. When it's bad it's terrible, but when it's good it does come close to capturing some of the spirit of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Martin Freeman excels yet again as Bilbo, especially in the quieter moments, and I wish he was in a movie deserving of his performance.
TV REVIEW // The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Episode 5, "Truth"
Episode summary: Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, Baron Zemo, John Walker, and Karli Morgenthau must all deal with the fall out from their actions. (IMDb)
FAWS hits again with another great episode in "Truth", although it can't quite match the intensity of "The Whole World is Watching" and feels a little too slow for a penultimate episode. There are some moments clearly building for the future too that take a little away from the story of this show, but those are really minor nit-picks compared to the quality on display here.
The first sign of this comes right at the start with Sam and Bucky taking on the new, lethal Captain America and it's an interesting fight with the two heroes taking a beating because they don't want to kill Walker, even if he's trying his hardest to add them to the list of deaths he's implied to be responsible for. It's a brutal battle, in keeping with FAWS' tone in general and a great way to kick things off.
It's after that fight that things slow down, with the build for future projects providing a buffer between resolving the end of the previous episode before really digging into new moments. Bucky tracks Zemo to the Sokovian memorial, handing him over to the Wakandans who say they will take him to the Raft - last seen in Captain America: Civil War and maybe still run by General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross? Hmm...
Julia Louis-Dreyfus also joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who apparently approves of Walker's killing of the Flag Smasher in the previous episode, telling him he would be smart to answer her calls going forward. She's been both a love interest for Nick Fury and also the leader of HYDRA in the comics, could she be forming a Dark Avengers team here?
We then get the best scene in this series - and one of the best in the MCU in total - as Sam visits Isaiah to learn more about his story. Carl Lumbly excels as he tells the story of how he was mistreated and abused by the country he served and lives in, with some of the lines surprising a lot of people as coming from a Marvel/Disney series - I'm guessing they missed Black Panther?
Still, it's a great scene and both Lumbly and Anthony Mackie shine here, and now I really want at least a one-off special actually showing us what Isaiah went through. Not that I doubt his story - the USA doesn't have the best history with how it's treated its black soldiers, but just to show another side of how black superheroes can be treated in contrast to Sam, the Avenger, or T'Challa, an actual King.
While Mackie makes it clear that what Isaiah said has registered, a huge chunk of the episode revolves around him talking to his sister, Sarah, and Bucky, eventually deciding that the struggles people like Isaiah faced means he can't just give up and accept things as they are, but should fight on and finally starts practicing with the shield, effectively telling the former HYDRA assassin the same thing applies to him too.
This whole great sequence is great because it feels like a genuine evolution of the relationship between Sam and Bucky. Even when the latter shows up to help out fixing the Wilson family boat, there's still a little friction between them, but they part ways as very good friends and you believe it. Mackie and Sebastian Stan have great chemistry together and it really shines here, making the pair of them feel completely believable as trusted allies and friends.
What little remains feels like set-up for the finale, with Sharon really trying her hardest to come across as the Power Broker for the audience by sending Batroc to help the Flag Smashers attack the Global Repatriation Council. It's a little disturbing that FAWS cut a pandemic plot-line, only to also have reality mirror the replacement plot with an attack by revolutionaries on a government building during a vote.
Then again, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has continued the tradition of the Captain America movies being the Marvel Studios properties that feel the most grounded and relevant to reality, although I'm sure the studio wishes that wasn't the case here. Considering the areas this show has already covered, it'll be interesting to see how it all wraps up in the final episode.
"Truth" is another fantastic episode for this series, even if it does feel a little weird to take some time out and slow things down with only one episode remaining. The scene and conversation between Isaiah and Sam regarding their differing experiences as black superheroes is not only an episode highlight, or even a season best, but one of the genuinely great moments in the MCU. More like this please.