THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Aidan Turner
When we last saw Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) and Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage) at the Lonely Mountain, they witnessed the escape of the dragon Smaug (Cumberbatch). Smaug unleashes his fury by destroying the small city of Lake-town where some of the other dwarves, along with elves Tauriel (Lilly) and Legolas (Bloom), are presiding. Have no fear as some of them are able to escape before the wooden island burns down. Thorin becomes highly protective over the Lonely Mountain and is desperately searching for the coveted Arkenstone that is buried within the mountains treasure. The elf king Thranduil (Pace) also has his eye on the mountain and would like to claim some family crystals that are also buried deep. The treasures hidden within the Lonely Mountain deepen the rivalry between the dwarves and elves.
Missing from this crew is our faithful wizard Gandalf (McKellen) who has been captured by the Necromancer, aka Sauron (the big burning eye from The Lord of the Rings). Sauron has unleashed a fury of beastly orcs out onto the lands in an attempt to kill the dwarves, elves, and everyone else. The feuding sides must come together as they are severely outnumbered by the hoards of orcs that have now assembled outside the Lonely Mountain.
I feel like I need to preface with the fact that I enjoyed the first two films in The Hobbit trilogy. I have not read the book yet, so I was not as enraged as others were by the liberties taken by director Peter Jackson and his writing team of Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro on J.R.R. Tolkien’s story. I thought that The Desolation of Smaug was a vast improvement over An Unexpected Journey by pushing the series along in the right direction as it felt closer in tone and feel to The Lord of the Rings than the first film did.
After seeing all three films now, I understand the frustration with having this short story dragged out over eight hours. Unlike other conclusions of series, The Battle of the Five Armies feels as though a half hour ending has been stretched out to a two and a half hour run time. I think they should have stuck to their original idea of making it two parts over a trilogy. Unlike other “third parts”, this conclusion didn’t really feel like it had it’s own story while wrapping up a much larger story. There were structural things that felt missing. Due to the fact we jump into the battle sequence fairly early on, the adventure and fun of the first two films completely dissipates. Many of these characters are treated as pure background filler. So much of the life and quirkiness of the dwarves is completely missing here. Smaug is a fantastic villain who is voiced by the one and only Benedict Cumberbatch. Unfortunately, the fire breathing baddie does not have that much screen time in this film. Cate Blanchett’s Galadrial and Christopher Lee’s Saruman are also given the cameo treatment. They have a fairly pivotal scene with Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, but it’s not the closure I was looking for with these characters. There’s a big character change within Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield who has now become the face of greed and power. Jackson seems to shift his focus on him instead of Martin Freeman’s titular character. Luckily Freeman is one hell of a character actor who can keep the humor of Bilbo going with added bits, looks, and stares.
It’s probably unjust to compare The Hobbit trilogy to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it is inevitable given Jackson’s direct involvement with all six films. When the ending came, I expected more and oddly enough I wanted more. Not because I didn’t want to say goodbye, but after two and a half hours, the film felt a bit anticlimactic. Jackson received flack for the multiple endings in The Return of the King, but I would rather have that than an ending that feels a bit ho-hum. In that film, we got the proper bookend for many characters that we came to know and cherish. There are many images and moments form that film that are still engrained in my head. I never got that feeling with The Battle of the Five Armies. Yes, some characters perish along the way, but I felt incomplete as there wasn’t that feeling of attachment this time around. The only special thing to gleam from the ending is the morsel of fun that comes with the direct tie-in to The Fellowship of the Ring with the return of Ian Holm as the older Bilbo Baggins.
Throughout every one of these films, I am incredibly in awe of how Jackson has brought Tolkien’s characters and worlds to life. They are incredibly grandiose films to look at. The special effects, graphics, and the all around production design are all stunning. He brings a grand scale to these battle sequences without making them feel too chaotic and hard to watch. I saw the film in 3D, but the HFR (high frame rate) was not shown at the time. Is the 3D worth it? Not really. The Hobbit films are a great companion piece for anyone that enjoyed The Lord of the Rings. These films won’t covert any Tolkien newbies, but you can’t deny the artistry by Jackson and his cast and crew along the way. The Battle of the Five Armies may not be the ending I wanted, but I will still own all of them in their extended editions and have a marathon viewing day.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Where are Sam, Frodo, and Gollum when you need them?
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS