The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is director Peter Jackson's third and final installment of his adaptation of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. The novel is the much-loved prequel to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. This chapter starts as Thorin Oakenshield and his company of fellow dwarves face an attack against their home, now recaptured from the dragon Smaug. Their neighbours in Middle Earth – humans, elves and Orcs alike - seek either their share of the mountain’s gold treasure or its strategic position. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins' efforts to avoid a conflict between humans, dwarves and elves to form a united front against the Orcs are hampered by Thorin's descent into madness as his lust for gold overcomes him.
The film, overall, is a disappointing ending to the series. Almost all of the screen time is devoted to the eponymous battle, for which it fails to raise emotional stakes. It plays little more than the part of tying up loose ends in the overall story and accompanying audiences to the beginnings of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson directs with skill the meat of the battle, with some spectacular sweeping views and set pieces which make for good comic relief. Yet it is near-identical to his efforts in The Two Towers and The Return of the King, and so brings nothing new.
In terms of story, dialogue is generally over-sentimental or over-dramatic, and any plot does nothing more than thinly frame the film's action sequences. Its sole success at provoking emotion takes place in the film's final half hour, during which characters either resolve their conflicts or say their farewells.
Richard Armitage performs well as Thorin, wavering between madness and humanity, perhaps more convincing when he is tender than in his fits of rage. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) becomes a convincing moral compass of the tale, along with a tired-looking but ever strong Ian McKellen. Luke Evans holds up well as Bard, the Lake Town leader – although his uncanny resemblance to Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean is a perplexing make-up/costuming choice. Orlando Bloom himself and Evangeline Lily aren't given much to work with as Thauriel and Legolas. Lily is tasked with carrying an unsatisfying love story subplot with Kili (Aidan Turner). Lee Pace is excellent as Thranduil, split between his ambition and fatherhood.
3D didn't seem to add much to the film – even in the film’s initial scenes, during which Smaug wreaks havoc on Lake Town. Smaug itself looked as terrifying and compelling as in the previous film – its human-like eyes exceptionally well done. Oddly, the battle itself is interspersed by several comical, winter-themed creatures. For instance, Thanraduil is introduced on a giant reindeer, and it's difficult to know, with the gravitas of the scene, whether this is meant straight-faced or tongue in cheek.
The score by Howard Shore reprises Lord of the Rings theme at key moments, with a final song 'The Last Goodbye' by Billy Boyd who plays Peregrin Took in the Lord of the Rings series. The track feels as much an adieu to franchise as an echo of the emotions of the film’s ending.
The Battle of Five Armies does what it says on the tin – it shows a Battle with Five Armies on an epic (but not unseen) scale. It's a pity the story doesn't grab hold of its audience enough to worry them about its result. The first two installments of The Hobbit were more exciting, and more imaginative.