Review: The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies
PLOT: When news of the ultimate destruction of Smaug spreads throughout Middle Earth, Thorin reclaims his crown as the King under the Mountain. However, the many treasures the lonely mountain holds brings together a number of armies to fight a bloody battle for the newly restored fortune.
REVIEW: It seems only yesterday audiences were waiting with bated breath for the final chapter in the LORD OF THE RINGS saga. And yet, there and back again we are waiting for what is most likely – at least for now – the final chapter in Peter Jackson’s magical world of Middle Earth and all its inhabitants. And happily, the end is one that will certainly please fans who continue to root for Bilbo Baggins. Aside from finishing off where THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG ended, this final entry is an extended BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES and it is thrilling, funny and especially for the fully initiated, bittersweet. As much as LOTR: THE RETURN OF THE KING seemed like an end – a few of them actually – this truly feels like a farewell to arms for the series.
After an opening sequence that is surprisingly short, we find the city of Esgaroth [Lake-town] in fire and ash from the destruction of the beastly Smaug (voiced terrifyingly by Benedict Cumberbatch). Those who survived the attack seek shelter and the promised treasure that Thorin had vowed to give them. However, the King under the Mountain has given in to dragon-sickness and betrayed his friendship and loyalty searching desperately for the legendary Arkenstone hidden within the vast treasure Smaug had so selfishly kept. Of course we know who really has the stone. Yet it is not only the Dwarves and those in the neighboring city that desire the gold. As the title suggests, other armies have assembled to claim the wealth and will gladly turn to war and death to procure it. And so the battle begins, and ends, here.
What has always worked for me with LOTR, as well as THE HOBBIT, is the ability to create a visually stunning piece that ably brings J.R.R. Tolkien’s rich characters to life. With THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES, Peter Jackson has crafted a very succinct work. At around twenty minutes shorter than the previous two films, the third feature in THE HOBBIT is the most exciting chapter. While it doesn’t quite live up to the grandeur of THE RETURN OF THE KING, it is still one hell of a finale. With the battle running for nearly the entire film, there is far more action this time around.
With so many scenes revolving around a massive war, a few moments certainly stand out. When Thorin faces off against a monstrous orc on ice, it may well be one of my favorite scenes in the entire Middle Earth catalogue – it even garnered a ton of applause at my screening. Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly shine in one of the best fight sequences as well. As much as I appreciated Bloom as Legolas in LOTR, with a few years on the actor he gives the role a little more gravitas than before. With nearly non-stop action, this is probably the leanest and most succinct visit to Middle Earth. Still, it manages to offer enough inspired moments of humor and heartbreak in-between.
The growing friendship between Thorin and Bilbo is also incredibly well played here. It helps that both Richard Armitage and Martin Freeman continue to give superb performances. As Thorin descends into certain madness thanks to his obsession with the wealth and treasure, it is Baggins with his growing sympathy for his friend – as well as fear – that grounds the fantasy. In fact, there are beautiful performances all around. And once again Ian McKellen is simply perfection as Gandalf.
In the end the question remains, did THE HOBBIT need to be made into three films? Could this story have been told in the originally planned two films? Of course it could have. As detailed the universe Peter Jackson expanded upon, there is little doubt that releasing three feature films – as they did more appropriately with LOTR – had more to do with box office revenue than craft. Yet with all this, he has still made a trilogy with absolute love and admiration for the source material, and it shows.
For those who have issue with THE HOBBIT being split into three movies, THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES won’t change that. Smaug and his menace are dealt with far too swiftly for a movie like this. And of course, as I was walking out of the screening you could already hear talk about the eagles and why they always show up so late – that conversation always brings a smile to my face. The main qualm I personally have with the film is a minor one, it is the title change. THERE AND BACK AGAIN speaks volumes about this final chapter, and with the final song performed by LOTR’s Billy Boyd, it was a perfect way to describe what had come before. With spectacular visuals and the occasionally fun 3D effects, Jackson has once again given the fans something to savor.
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...