10 Worst Action Scenes in ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy

From 2012 to 2014, The Hobbit trilogy offered fans of Peter Jackson’s take on Middle Earth a chance to return to the rich world of J. R. R. Tolkien. However, there were several red flags off the bat, from a massive amount of behind-the-scenes dramas and delays (which cost the films their original director, Guillermo del Toro), and the decision to split the shortest book in Tolkien’s legendarium into three movies over two hours long. The result was a tonally inconsistent trilogy that tried to re-capture the majesty and drama of the Lord of the Rings trilogy while still including the light-hearted silliness of The Hobbit.

One of the best examples of The Hobbit’s flaws can be found in their action sequences. Most of them are beyond over-the-top, and due to Jackson lacking the prep time he had for Lord of the Rings, they rely too heavily on CGI. Many action scenes are also oddly placed, turning previously mundane actions in the books into intense life-or-death struggles.

10 The White Council vs The Necromancer

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Galadriel, carrying Gandalf, surrounded by the nine Nazgul in Dol Guldur
Image via Warner Bros

Since The Hobbit is a single short book, Jackson and his team included lots of information from the appendices of Lord of the Rings to expand the run-time. Chiefest among these subplots involves Gandalf’s (Sir Ian McEllen) investigations of the fortress of Dol Guldur and its new occupant, the Necromancer, who is revealed to be Sauron (Benedict Cumberbatch). It culminates with Gandalf having been captured and the rest of the White Council arriving to save him from Sauron and his nine Nazgul.

While there is a certain amount of enjoyment to be had seeing fan favorites like Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Saruman (Sir Christopher Lee) getting one last action scene, the overuse of CGI and the need to make everything bigger and better is what ruins it. The effects on the Nazgul look unfinished, and their quick movements make it hard to follow what exactly is happening. It also makes the White Council feel very reckless, as they brought all three of the elven rings to Sauron’s doorstep.

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9 Beorn Chase

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Beorn, in bear form, trying to break into his house and kill the dwarves
Image via Warner Bros

After escaping from Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett), Gandalf leads Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves to the house of a skin changer named Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt). He either takes the form of a tall man or a monstrously sized bear that even Azog doesn’t want to face. However, in bear form he is savage and hard to reason with, forcing the dwarves to make a mad dash to his house before he can savage them.

This scene reeks of someone deciding that the movie needed an action scene within the first ten minutes. After outrunning Beorn and locking him out of his own home, Bilbo and the dwarves are accepted as his guests, and Beorn focuses on patrolling his grounds. At first, it seems like the film is trying to show that Beorn can’t control himself in animal form, but later he follows the company and seems to be in control of his actions, which makes this scene all the more confusing.

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8 Azog and the Fir Trees

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Thorin Oakenshield walks down a broken tree to fight Azog
Image via Warner Bros

Having escaped from Goblin Town, Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves are beset by Azog and his warg riders. They are chased to a cliffside with a collection of trees, where Gandalf tries to fight off the wargs using flaming pinecones. This doesn’t prove to be as good a defence as intended, and Thorin nearly dies to Azog when he tries to face him in single combat.

This climactic showdown drags its feet to try and invoke the same grand imagery as Fellowship of the Ring’s climax. Thorin’s suicidal charge against Azog is done so Bilbo can rescue him via a rugby tackle and have Thorin finally accept Bilbo as one of the company. Perhaps this could have worked if The Hobbit was split into two films. This ending would work better, but as it is, it makes the story and characters feel all over the map.

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7 Legolas vs Bolg Round Two

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Legolas and Bolg fight
Image via Warner Bros

As the son of King Thranduil (Lee Pace), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) was naturally going to appear in The Hobbit trilogy in some capacity. Unfortunately, the writers decided to give him an egregious amount of screen time that goes beyond what is reasonable. This is best seen in the third film, where the climactic showdown between Thorin Oakenshiel (Richard Armitage) and Azog is constantly interrupted by Legolas’ duel with Azog’s son, Bolg (Lawrence Makoare and John Tui).

From a story perspective, the fight doesn’t work because unlike Azog and Thorin, who have three movies worth of baggage, Legolas and Bolg only fought once in Desolation of Smaug. Plus, the audience knows Legolas will survive, so the fight with Bolg is just a chance to have him perform more impressive combat feats. Instead, the whole thing comes across like a video game mini-boss, especially when Legolas jumps on falling debris like he’s in Super Mario.

6 The Thunder Battle

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

A Stone giant prepares to fight in a Thunder Battle
Image via Warner Bros

After departing Rivendell, Bilbo and the dwarves make the perilous crossing over the Misty Mountains. One night, they get caught in a horrible thunderstorm, which turns into a thunder battle when stone giants awaken and start fighting one another. Unfortunately, it turns out the company was walking on one giant’s knees, getting them caught up in the brawl.

This is an example of extending content that only took up a few sentences worth of description in the book. There are several moments where the dwarves should have either been crushed to death or fallen off of the giant’s body, but miraculously, nobody in the company is hurt. The most it does is lead to a moment where Bilbo has to be rescued by the dwarves and Thorin calls him useless, which doesn’t even fit the moment because nothing about this situation was Bilbo’s fault.

5 The Race to Rivendell

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

An Orc rides a Warg while tracking the dwarves
Image via Warner Bros

While Gandalf and Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) talk about what’s happening at Dol Guldur, Bilbo and the company are attacked by two wargs. Radagast offers to distract the orcs so Gandalf can lead them to the safety of Rivendell. Gandalf thinks the wargs will run him down, but Radagast assures him that his Rhosgobel Rabbits are up to the task.

Ignoring how ridiculous the rabbit-pulled sleigh looks, the scene feels like it’s meant to be taken comically rather than seriously. Radagast leads the orcs in numerous loops back towards the company, forcing them to run from one rocky outcrop to another. It’s also full of moments that reek of artificial tension, such as the company’s ponies conveniently bolting, or one orc being so difficult to kill that it alerts the others.

4 Escape From Goblin Town

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Goblin King orders his prisoners executed
Image via Warner Bros

When Bilbo and the dwarves take a rest inside a cave, they end up captured by the goblins of Goblin Town. Bilbo gets separated and falls into a deadly riddle game with Gollum (Andy Serkis), while the dwarves are taken to the Great Goblin (Barry Humphries). Fortunately, Gandalf arrives and fights off the goblins, allowing the dwarves to follow him in a mad dash to freedom.

What follows is one of the biggest messes of CGI and confusing editing ever put into film. The dwarves effortlessly slaughter hundreds of goblins without a scratch, deflect arrows with swords and a ladder, and ultimately never feel like they’re in danger of dying. While the Lord of the Rings films had epic fight scenes as well, they also did a better job of making it seem like there was a chance the characters could die if they slipped up.

3 The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Azog commanding his orcs at the Battle of the Five Armies
Image via Warner Bros

After the death of Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), his treasure is sought after by various factions: the men of Laketown, the elves of Mirkwood, and the Dwarves of the Iron Hills, who come to reinforce Thorin. As the factions prepare to clash, Azog unleashes a surprise attack using giant stone-burrowing worms. The three sides are forced to put aside their petty differences to stand united against the full might of the orcs of the north.

Jackson dreaded filming the Battle of the Five Armies, trying to put it off for as long as possible, and it shows in the end result. The battle is a complete mess, with CGI monsters clashing without much rhyme, reason, or strategy, until Thorin gets to Raven Hill for his showdown with Azog. Worse, it lacks the seesaw style of the previous battles, which helps the audience know who was winning at what particular moment.

2 The Dwarves vs Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Thorin avoids a fire blast from Smaug
Image via Warner Bros

Upon hearing the sounds of Smaug’s awakening, the dwarves enter the Lonely Mountain to help Bilbo. Unfortunately, they can do little against the dragon and instead flee into a room where they find the remains of their kinsman who died of starvation. Determined to avoid this fate, Thorin comes up with a plan to trick Smaug into re-lighting the forges and drown him in liquid gold.

Few action scenes can make a dragon as impressive as Smaug seem toothless, but the crew managed it. Not only is Smaug not able to kill a single dwarf, but the plan makes no sense, and ultimately does nothing to even slow Smaug down before his death in the next film. The plot armor on the dwarves is at its strongest here, from Thorin surfing a metal wheelbarrow on a river of molten gold to the company avoiding Smaug’s flames by hiding behind tiny pillars.

1 The Barrel Scene

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Thorin Oakenshield and some of his dwarves in barrels riding down the river
Image via Warner Bros

Using his magic ring, Bilbo manages to get the dwarves out of the jail of King Thranduil and into barrels to be taken downriver to Laketown. However, they are spotted by Legolas, who attempts to stop them with a contingent of guards. They are then ambushed by orcs led by Bolg, resulting in a crazy three-way fight as the company makes their way downriver.

In many ways, this scene encapsulates all that is wrong with this trilogy: it goes on too long, floods the scene with bad CGI, and turns what was originally a simple event into a complex one. It’s full of over-the-top silly moments that clash with the film’s more serious tone, from Legolas balancing on dwarf heads to Bombur’s (Stephen Hunter) barrel rolling into dozens of orcs only for him to get up and fight without a scratch. Most baffling of all, the filmmakers used poor-quality GoPro footage.

NEXT: Every Middle-Earth Movie Extended Edition, Ranked by Importance

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