Film Face-off: 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' vs. 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies'

Film Face-off: 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' vs. 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies'

Dec 22, 2014

It is over. With six films, and approximately 8,754 minutes (if you count the extended editions), Peter Jackson is all done with Middle-earth. First came The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and now The Hobbit trilogy. How do we feel, where do we go from here, and what will become of New Zealand now that the hobbits are moving out of the shire? These are all good questions, but before we can answer any of them let's have ourselves a face-off.

This week's Film Face-off is about the thirds. It's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King versus The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. To save us some typing time, we're going with LOTR: ROTK and H:BOFA from here on out.

The Hobbit

The Return of the King

Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) is losing his grip. The one ring that can rule them all is starting to get to him. Not only that, he must battle the giant spider Shelob, and deal with the two-faced Gollum (Andy Serkis).

The Battle of the Five Armies

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is hanging out with a bunch of dwarves, elves and men of Dale. He also stole the Arkenstone from Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), but doesn't want to give it to Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) just yet.

Winner: LOTR: ROTK. We said "The" Hobbit, which is why the great Sam (Sean Astin) and the others were not included above. For a film trilogy called The Hobbit, they don't center on Bilbo all that much. In H:BOFA, it gets better. We finally care a little bit about Bilbo, because he's also invested. Still, he barely given anything to do in this loaded action film. Frodo was front and center with the heart of LOTR: ROTK. Even when his character is losing his mind and getting a little bit annoying, we're yelling at the screen, telling him not to trust Gollum, and never to turn his back on Sam.


The Main Man

The Return of the King

Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) is stepping it up in the leadership department. He picks up the Army of the Dead on the way to the final battle, then leads an army into what he thinks is certain death. Plus, he marries an elf (Liv Tyler).

The Battle of the Five Armies

Get your angry letters ready right now. "The main man" is an idea, and not necessarily a human. In this case, it's Thorin, a dwarf. After taking over the Lonely Mountain, he comes down with a bad case of dragon sickness.

Winner: LOTR:ROTK. Dragon sickness isn't fun. In H:BOFA it's where Thorin gets obsessed with all of the gold and loses sight of caring about anybody else. All of the other dwarves know he has this illness, but for some idiotic reason they keep doing whatever he says. Then, as if someone asks, "Hey, why don't you just get over it?" He does. You know, just like someone telling you to kick that heroin habit. Eventually, Thorin has an absolutely amazing battle that would rival anything you've seen in the LOTR films. Sadly, it's too late to care. It's like Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace giving us the best lightsaber fight we'd ever known up until that point. If you don't care about the characters, it doesn't matter how cool it looks. With Aragorn, someone was willing to give up eternity just to hang out with him for a few decades, enough said. We'd do it too.



The Return of the King

Legolas (Orlando Bloom) is Aragon's right-hand elf.

The Battle of the Five Armies

Legolas follows Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) around like a puppy.

Winner: LOTR:ROTK. They clipped his wings. Yes, we know he doesn't actually have wings. Legolas is still the same dead-pan badass with a bow, but he doesn't have anyone to joke around with like he does in LOTR:ROTK. Instead, he pines after Tauriel, who is in love with someone else. Not only is it someone else, it's a dwarf named Kili (Aidan Turner). That has to sting an elf's ego. There is an action scene when Legolas comes to Tauriel's rescue that definitely enters the "Top Three Things Legolas Has Done." Unfortunately for H:BOFA, the "Top One Thing Legloas Has Done" is when he kills the Oliphaunt in LOTR:ROTK.


The Others

The Return of the King

Pippin (Billy Boyd) is dealing with Ents. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) is stepping up his game. Gandalf with White (Ian McKellen) is stronger than ever. Plus, we get to meet Smeagol (Andy Serkis). And then there's Sam.

The Battle of the Five Armies

Saruman (Christopher Lee), Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Galariel (Cate Blanchett help Gandalf. Lee Pace is an elf, Billy Connolly is a dwarf and Luke Evans is bard. Also, some important dwarves die.

Winner: LOTR:ROTK. If you can't tell, we think Sam is better than all of the H:BOFA characters combined. Actually, we feel the same way about Gollum/Smeagol. White is better than Grey as far as Gandalf is concerned. In H:BOFA, it's nice to see Saruman, Elrond and Galariel fight for Gandalf, but it feels like a gimmick to get us to think we're watching a LOTR film. Plus, we didn't even mention Alfrid (Ryan Gage), who is truly annoying throughout H:BOFA. It's a character who isn't in the book and shouldn't have been in the film.


The Ending

The Return of the King

The ring is destroyed in Mount Doom. Eagles save Sam and Frodo. Characters jump/frolic on a bed. Aragon is crowned king. Frodo and Sam go to the Shire. Frodo leaves for the Undying Lands. Frodo gives Same a book about their adventures.

The Battle of the Five Armies

Again, some important dwarves die. Bilbo says good-bye to the living dwarves. Legolas goes to see about Strider. Gandalf smokes a pipe. Bilbo returns home to a little comedy. Sixty years later, there is a knock at the door.

Winner: LOTR:ROTK. Maybe you thought we were some of those film nerds who didn't like the multiple, never-ending endings of LOTR:ROTK. Well, you were wrong. Sure, each of the seven sentences above could have been their own ending, but after spending years and many, many hours with these characters, we were happy to have a long, slow good-bye with them. With H:BOFA, it feels like they are desperate to make us understand our "fun" can continue with LOTR, instead of focusing up on a quality ending. The fact that Bilbo says good-bye to a group of dwarves is the perfect example of these characters not being crafted well enough for individual moments.


OVERALL WINNER: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King defeats The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, 5-0.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is bad, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is not bad, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is pretty good. The reason it's pretty good is because there is a ton of action, and it's not as long as the others. Sadly, it's like comparing the Star Wars trilogies to each other. Speaking of which, rumor on the street is that actor Topher Grace made a very watchable single film by editing Star Wars Episodes 1-3 together. Hopefully, someone can do the same for The Hobbit one day.



Categories: Features, In Theaters
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