Thursday, December 18

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Graham McTavish, Stephen Hunter, John Callen, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, James Nesbitt, Adam Brown, Aidan Turner, Bret McKenzie, Dean O’Gorman, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, and Luke Evans
144 Minutes

Three films about one book have been leading up to the final battle described in the subtitle of Peter Jackson’s final adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal novel “The Hobbit”. This film finds numerous forces, orcs, elves, dwarves, and men, vying for control of a mountain that shelters riches and is protected by the fire-breathing dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Jackson transitions into the bulk of the narrative quicker than the last two outings, this time focusing less on the journey and more on the excitingly culminating and again visually impressive combative finale. Unfortunately it’s hard to ignore the lengths to which the material has been stretched, ultimately rendering the final venture into the world of Tolkien more lackluster than shining.

The end of “The Desolation of Smaug” left our disheveled band of dwarves and lone weary hobbit in the shadow of the vengeful dragon Smaug, who was in flight to wreak devastation on the people of Lake town. Smaug’s arrogance ultimately becomes his weakness as Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) challenges the dragon with an arrow. While the dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) becomes consumed by the gold in the mountain of Erebor, leading Thorin to unreasonable and erratic behavior. Once the numerous tribes in Middle Earth become aware that Smaug is no longer protecting the gold in Erebor depths, many journey to take their share of the riches. Thorin is unwilling to part with the treasures, which leads to an epic battle between five forceful armies for control of the mountain.

Peter Jackson has been crafting Tolkien’s world for well over a decade. So it’s without any surprise that “The Battle of the Five Armies” looks and feels confidently rendered. The effects are again impressive, especially the final battle that has everything from burrowing creatures to enormous charging reindeer, however there is also much more. The landscapes are beautiful and the scope, which moves from flowing aerial views to the pummeling chaos of the trenches, manipulates the pulse of the action. In one of the best scenes from all of Jackson’s Tolkien voyages Thorin Oakenshield stands toe to toe with the leader of the orc army on top of a frozen waterfall, the sequence displays all the skillful measures Jackson has successfully incorporated into the design of his past films.

While the film is mostly consumed by the final battle, the narrative takes time to catch up with other Middle Earth mainstays like Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), and Saruman (Christopher Lee) while also wrapping up some of the supplemental side stories that take place. Unfortunately these subplots hamper many of the good things that have been peaking, such as the changing character of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) who has been thrust into a complicated heroic role. There is also a forced love story and a few time-consuming nods at events of the future, which move the focus away from the interesting dynamics formed, during all the time together in the first two films, between the band of traveling dwarves.

Many of the issues with “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” shouldn’t concern Tolkien fans much. The film is action packed and remains exciting, albeit somewhat monotonous, from the beginning to the conclusion. Three years of returning to Middle Earth may seem too long, and the debate will be made of whether this book adaptation needed such lengthy treatment, but it comes with a bit of melancholy knowing we won’t have a new trip into the world of Tolkien coming next winter. It’s hard to question the success of a film when that sentiment remains in the end.

Monte’s Rating
3.50 out of 5.00

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