The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Premiered on December 17, 2014. 144 minutes, rated PG-13.
Directed by Peter Jackson
Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro.
Based on The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Note: In this review I will not spoil anything created for the movie, but I will mention events that occur in the novel. You’ve had 77 years to read the book, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
The movie begins with Smaug attacking Laketown. It’s a pretty spectacular scene. I was impressed that Jackson focused on the chaos of its citizens trying leave, though Stephen Fry’s Master of Laketown’s comedy was ill suited for the situation. After Smaug’s death the fallout begins: who will get some or all of the treasure within Erebor, located in Lonely Mountain? Suffering from dragon sickness, Thorin doesn’t want to share any of it with anyone, even though it was his and his companions’ fault that Smaug took out Laketown. He doesn’t want to return some jewels to Thranduil of the elves, causing them to align with those of Laketown. Add in two armies of Orcs and some dwarves that come to help Thorin, led by Billy Connolly who’s perfectly cast, and you’ve got your five armies attacking each other for the majority of the movie. Before this can occur, Galdalf is rescued from his imprisonment by Galadriel, Elrond, Saruman, and Radagast. This sequence has more to do with The Lord of the Rings than with The Hobbit, but it’s highly enjoyable.
Richard Armitage as Thorin is in a haze for most of the film, made mad by the treasure. His reawakening scene is well played. The twelve actors playing the twelve dwarves are interchangeable with each other as none do anything to differentiate themselves from the other. Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel didn’t bother me as much as in the previous film since she wasn’t around Aidan Turner’s Kili until the end. Her scenes with Orlando Bloom as Legolas were great. Nice to see elves doing elvish things, rather than make puppy dog eyes at others. She has the best line from the film, which is answered excellently by Lee Pace’s Thranduil. Pace stole the movie. His character is just as flawed as Thorin, but he goes through the most dramatic turnarounds, with this scene with Tauriel capping it. Ryan Gage’s Alfrid is not a well written character. He’s the cheap laughs of the film, producing none, but I can’t fault the actor–this is the writers’ fault. He resembles Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean and this had to have been intentional. He’s just awful. He’s the Jar Jar Binks of this prequel trilogy. Of all the characters of this film, Bilbo is overshadowed. The story wavers too often from its title character, but that’s been a flaw of this series since the first film. There are moments for Martin Freeman to shine, with a scene before Gandalf and Thranduil and revealing something before the dwarves, but his movie is not about him.
This film is about the fighting. This is a war piece that completely swept me away with the insanity of a fantasy battle that grew to insane heights. Watching these armies clash is amazing. I knew the outcome of the fight going in, but still enjoyed the progression of the battle. The orcs were stunning in battle, and Azog and Bolg are brutal monsters. Their final sequences are going to be replayed to death (no pun intended) when this film becomes available to purchase. The special effects creating this carnage have easily taken another Academy Award.
I purchased the first Hobbit film, out of habbit, but didn’t purchase the second. I find myself thinking the first two films in this trilogy to be too bloated, too long. An hour could be removed from each and nothing really lost of the story. I cannot say this of this final film. It needs to be this long. I will pick this up when it comes out for home viewings, but will probably skip everything except the fighting.
The final line: This is the best film of the three and the only one worthy of multiple viewings. Overall grade: B+