After 13 years and over 17 hours of (theatrical) footage, Peter Jackson has finally completed both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. While some have criticized Jackson stretching The Hobbit, a 288 page book, into a trilogy of films, I’ve personally found the first two films to be a welcome return to Middle Earth. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Five Armies) covers the last 180 pages or so of the book’s story and concludes Bilbo’s adventure. So, will this be the finishing touch on Jackson’s addition to his most popular work? Or will The Hobbit end on a sour note?
To avoid spoiling the events for anyone who may have not read the book, I’ll be brief talking about the plot of Five Armies. When we last left off, Bilbo, Thorin, and their company of dwarves had narrowly escaped the rage of Smaug and the dragon had set off to burn Laketown. This final film covers the battle with Smaug, the fate of the fortress in Lonely Mountain, and bridges the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
When I first heard that The Hobbit was being made, I was fairly indifferent to the idea of it. I had no real interest in the book, so I had no stake in a movie version. After watching the first film, I found myself enjoying the story and looking forward to the coming movies. When The Desolation of Smaug was released, I saw it in theatres and enjoyed it just as much as An Unexpected Journey. These movies captured the lighter atmosphere of The Hobbit, compared to The Lord of the Rings. Despite being stretched out of a relatively short book, they had plenty of plot points, twists, turns, and plenty of fun. Unfortunately, The Battle of the Five Armies seems to have lost all of the features that made the first two films so enjoyable.
The plot is linear and thin with only a handful of major plot points. When I read the title of the film, I didn’t realize that it exactly describes what this film is: a battle containing five armies. The first 45 minutes or so are a set up for a battle sequence that lasts for about an hour and a half. Sure, the battle is sparsely broken up with short scenes taking place in the areas surrounding the Lonely Mountain, but none of the scenes are enough to break up the monotony of the endless battle sequences. In fact, every scene seems to be a good two or three minutes too long. Meaningful glances and longing stares abound like The Hobbit is being turned into a Telemundo parody. Shockingly, The Battle of the Five Armies is the shortest of the three films; this movie easily feels like the longest of the three films. I think the main problem is that there wasn’t much else to flesh out from the book. I haven’t read The Hobbit, but I’m fairly certain that there wasn’t a twenty-five page iceberg-battle between Thorin and a particularly nasty orc.
Of course, the cast of The Hobbit all do commendable jobs portraying their characters for the final film. Despite the overall tone dropping to somber mistrust and violence, the cast is still able to portray the humanity and depth caused by dark times. Though, due to the overabundance of battles without dialogue, I feel like there wasn’t enough opportunity for any of the actors to really shine or give some sort of moving performance.
The Battle of the Five Armies continues the tradition of meticulously creating a beautiful rendition of Middle Earth and all of its inhabitants. While the CG orcs don’t have quite the same flair as the make-up effects we previously saw in The Lord of the Rings, but they still look fantastic and believable. The battle scenes are well orchestrated, standing on par with what the fans are expecting to see. The music is exactly what you would expect to hear: plenty of horns and strings swaying and striking in time with daggers slashing. Every technical aspect of The Battle of the Five Armies is spot-on, which is sadly overshadowed by the sheer boredom that will overcome you after the first hour of battle scenes.
The Battle of the Five Armies is definitely the weakest of the trilogy. Don’t be confused, it is still an impressive leap back into Middle Earth, but it doesn’t have any of the charm or excitement from the first two films. Outside of waiting to see who wins at killing everyone else, there’s little to no plot development and this drains most of the life out of the movie. I’m sure that hardcore fans will find some enjoyment in this movie, while they’re not nitpicking details, but I spent a majority of my time being bored. Maybe if you’re doing a marathon of the three Hobbit movies you’ll be able to watch The Battle of the Five Armies and think of it as a lengthy explanation of the second film’s ending, but it doesn’t stand on its own.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
3 out of 5