Release Date: 12/17/2014
Dir. Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Ian McKellan (Gandalf), Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Lee Pace (Thranduil), Luke Evans (Bard), Orlando Bloom (Legolas Greenleaf), Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel), Aidan Turner (Kili), Ryan Gage (Alfrid), Billy Connolly (Dain), Manu Bennett (Azog the Defiler), Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug/ Necromancer), Slyvester McCoy (Radagast), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Christopher Lee (Sarumon), Ken Stott (Balin), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), Dean O’Gorman (Fili)
The Battles of the Five Armies is the final installment of The Hobbit trilogy. With all the expectations of a final installment, The Battle of the Five Armies throws everything to the walls as the last hurrah. It was far from perfect, heck it was filled galore with moments that just didn’t hit right. However for all the bad, there was just as much good. It was a joyful romp from beginning to end.
As for the beginning of the film it opened en media res. I suspect that viewing the movies back to back will be quite an experience as this movie feeds so well into the last. Unfortunately, the opening focused solely on Smaug’s rampage over Lake Town. A sequence which was overall enjoyable. The fault with the sequence came with both the length and the placement. It was a very short segment that felt like it played out in no more than 10 minutes. Which in itself isn’t a major issue. Having it drag out too long would have been irritating. However, it felt like it should have been at the end of The Desolation of Smaug. The entire sequence felt out of place and unnecessary.
The film, unlike the previous two, took quite a bit of focus away from the company and focused much on the humans now left homeless and taking refuge outside of the mountain. They were left with nothing because of the dwarves desire to take their home back. Rather than turn the dwarves away, they offered help. Bard in particular shined in his new role as leader of the humans. Despite not wanting to be the hero that we was, he rose to the occasion. In many ways, this reminded me of Aragorn. Both were in similar situations and thrust into haughty roles and both were able to work for their people. Bard was fearless. Luke Evans played the role well, unfortunately, he as a character didn’t experience much growth or strife. Throughout the entire movie he played the savior. He’d swoop in and save someone in danger and it was fun to watch. The movie didn’t have time to watch Bard struggle with becoming a leader. He didn’t have the time, either he did or didn’t. That however, made his transition feel trite on screen.
One of the most unconventional parts of the movie was the romance between Tauriel and Kili. While it may not have been from the books or the lore, the romance played decently well on screen. It is the credit of the previous film that really set up the relationship between the two characters. This film merely relied on us remember that strong emotion and how much it impacted them and their decisions. Thus to see them fighting for each other at the end after being separated for the majority of the movie one has to accept and cherish that love. The only real downside is that it would have been better if this movie had some building on that relationship before they went to such an extreme.
The film surprisingly went all in when it came to humor. There were numerous points when the whole theatre burst into laughter. There were some genuinely funny moments that were clearly placed there to make us laugh rather than doing so unintentionally. Moments that should have been serious, were punctuated with notes of humor such as the boulder falling on a particularly annoying orc, a troll knocking itself when ramming into a wall, with the funniest of them all being Thorin’s trick near the end. The majority of the moments played well and added some much needed levity to what would have just been a big war movie. That said, one can’t help to notice that it felt noticeably out of place. The Hobbit series always have more humorous moments than the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it felt like they upped the laughs in this film.
Thorin’s struggle with Dragon Sickness was likely one of the most compelling elements of the story. It did however present one moment of inner mind working that felt too disparate from the rest of the movie. Thorin’s spiral and obsession with the Arkenstone was both fast and intense. He grew suspicious and snippy. The dwarves questioned him and he questioned their loyalty, believing one of them to have betrayed him. Richard Armitage acted his scenes out beautifully. To add to the performance, Peter Jackson’s direction really emphasized his paranoia and slow build to madness. It also made Thorin’s choice to pull away from his obsession, rage, and insatiability that was changing him and decide to fight with his people more impactful.
The Battle of the Five Armies was exactly as the title stated. The real focus of the movie was the aftermath after Smaug was killed and those who had some sort of a claim for the gold in Erebor. The righting was often brilliant as Peter Jackson has a knack for staging large battles without them ever becoming jarring or confusing. The movement was fluid and it made the action feel organic. It’s one of the great things about watching Peter Jackson stage action as there are often shots that smoothly move through the landscape following elegantly moving characters. It’s beautiful and The Battle of The Five Armies has plenty of these scenes for us to enjoy.
Peter Jackson has learned a lot about crafting an ending to a series of films that could have been learned in Return of the King. Yes, the ending in The Battle of the Five Armies is very different from the Return of the King as we know that the story will go on. That was imparted on this as we actually see that it slid goodbye to goodbye into a hello. I was never left wondering if the end was the end. It managed to keep it pleasant as well despite the loses that they suffered.
The Battle of the Five Armies is a fun final romp in Middle Earth, but it lacks much of the character development the previous films thrived on in favor of action. While this is undeniably a fault, it is also inherent in the nature of this final installment. The entire film is a strong a battles leading to an end. Characters become secondary for the most part in favor of fight sequences. The time for talking is over and if you are okay with a major focus on action you will enjoy your time watching this movie.
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