DIRECTOR: Peter Jacksonhobbit_the_battle_of_the_five_armies_ver21_xlg

CAST: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lily, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Sylvester McCoy, Ian Holm, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Mark Hadlow, Jeff Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Manu Bennett, Lawrence Makoare, Billy Connolly, Mikael Persbrandt, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, John Bell, Bret McKenzie, Robin Kerr, Simon London

RUNNING TIME: 144 mins

CERTIFICATE: 12A

BASICALLY…: Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) and Thorin Oakenshield’s (Armitage) band of dwarves must protect the Lonely Mountain from armies of men, elves, orcs and dwarves…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

This will be a review that, much like the Hobbit films, will be divided into separate parts. The first shall analyse the third and final film in the trilogy, subtitled The Battle of the Five Armies (changed late in the game from There and Back Again), and the second part shall take a look at the film series as a whole.

With that said, The Battle of the Five Armies is a wildly entertaining and at times intriguing addition to Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth saga. Containing more action than the first two films combined, it seems determined to not let our attention span wander off too quickly with some wonderful imagery and effective, if slightly over-done, use of CGI. The titular battle in particular, once it gets going, is an awe-inspiring spectacle that should please Lord of the Rings fans who adored the over-sized battle sequences like Helm’s Deep from those films, though perhaps not quite up to the same level (but very damn close).

The character work here, especially with Richard Armitage’s dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield, is also very well portrayed. For most of the first half of the film, he seems to be further descending into madness over the mountains of gold left over in his reclaimed dwarf city of Erebor and, much like Frodo’s obsession with the One Ring, it proceeds to cloud his better judgement as his greed consumes him. One particularly effective moment is of Thorin’s speech pattern starting to resemble the vocal chords of the greedy dragon Smaug, in a moment that surprisingly calls back to the final lines in George Orwell’s Animal Farm; props to the sound designers and editors who helped make that moment especially chilling. As for everyone else, they all get their fair share of closure and development, including Martin Freeman’s winning portrayal of Bilbo Baggins, though some are sadly left in the lurch – many of the supporting dwarf characters are overlooked and soon forgotten about, and Evangeline Lily’s elf Tauriel, an original contribution by Jackson, is overburdened with an ill-developed romance sub-plot with dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner).

There are also a few moments which are a bit too silly even for hardcore Middle-Earth fans – Orlando Bloom’s Legolas once more defies logic with his too-perfect fighting skills, and the expansion of weasley advisor Alfrid (Ryan Gage) turns out to be nothing more than out-of-place comic relief. However, it’s not too damning to call most of it childish because the original book was in fact a story for children (albeit one that’s been heavily adapted for a wider audience – more on that in a second), so we’re willing to let it slide on that basis, and just let The Battle of the Five Armies wrap things up in whatever way it desires.

So, now that the Hobbit trilogy is over and done with, as is Peter Jackson’s entire Middle-Earth saga for that matter – don’t expect his take on The Silmarillion any time soon, unless J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate decides to be lenient – what can we say about it as a whole?

The decision to turn what was going to originally be two films into three was met with severe backlash, and when fans saw how long and drawn-out each part turned out to be that backlash continued and still continues to this day. While we agree that three films is a tad excessive, for what they had to work with it all it’s really not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. With any adaptation, things have to be changed from the source material to please a wider audience, whether it’s by means of adding or subtracting to the story. “You can’t make a nine-hour trilogy out of a 300-odd page book,” Tolkien purists rallied out in the streets. Well, okay, but if one takes a look at the actual book it’s not very exciting – characterisation is minimal, Tolkien’s description is laid bare, and so on. As a director, it is Jackson’s task to bring this particular story to life via film, and if it means expanding on the story in order to make it more appealing then so be it – and for what he did, it’s still a fine series of films. We’ve enjoyed watching these characters, both old and new, we’ve been invested in the threats they’ve had to face, and hell, we’ve even liked the slow pacing at times (put down your arrows) because it gives us the opportunity to know these people better.

Is the Hobbit trilogy as good if not better than the Lord of the Rings trilogy? That’s a solid “no”. Did it even need to be three films after everything? Probably not, but again that’s debatable. However, for what they are and what they so easily could have been, they’re still a handsome and engaging collection of films that we’ve enjoyed from beginning to end which, though comes nowhere close to the reigning champion of Peter Jackson Middle-Earth films, are the closest we’ll get to a worthy successor.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies concludes the trilogy with a gleeful and engaging sense of entertainment, rounding up an imperfect but fine series of films which we’ve enjoyed despite its obvious flaws and making for a fitting ending to Peter Jackson’s filmic vision of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.