The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was a satiating conclusion to an ambitious project
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro
Based on: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Starring: Adam Brown, Aidan Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch, Billy Connolly, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Dean O’Gorman, Evangeline Lilly, Graham McTavish, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm, Ian Mckellen, James Nesbitt, James Nesbitt, Jed Brophy, John Callen, John Tui, Ken Stott, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Manu Bennett, Mark Hadlow, Martin Freeman, Mikael Persbrandt, Orlando Bloom, Peter Hambleton, Richard Armitage, Ryan Gage, Stephen Fry, Stephen Hunter, Sylvester McCoy, William Kircher
Release date: December 17 2014
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
The Battle of the Five Armies is the final chapter in The Hobbit trilogy, and the final film of the Lord of the Rings series as it bridges and establishes the links between the two stories. As a final chapter, the film is almost exclusively a single battle. As such, the film itself feels anticlimactic, in spite of being nothing but the climax of the trilogy. Given that more than ¾ of the film is a single battle, there is not much time for exposition, this is only a problem if you are attempting to watch or evaluate this film on its own. The Battle of the Five Armies does not, and cannot, stand alone as its own film. I would very much think of this as the last third of a very long film, or just the third act, which normally we would never attempt to evaluate independent of the rest of the film. As the third act of a larger film, the ultimate climax that is The Battle of the Five Armies is just short of anti-climactic. There are many reasons I feel shy of overwhelmed, the foremost is that I was not the least bit surprised by anything that happened; it was an enjoyable ride, but a familiar one.
The film begins as Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) decimates Laketown, as the residence flee for their lives Bard (Luke Evans) stands against the titanic dragon. With the lone black arrow left to him by his father, Bard manages to slay Smaug, saving the surviving townsfolk, who he then leads to the ruins of Dale. News of Smaug’s death spread quickly, first bringing Thranduil (Lee Pace) to Dale with his army of elves. Thranduil is seeking the white diamonds, he claims as rightfully his, which are held now by Thorin (Richard Armitage) within Erebor. Bard convinces Thranduil to withhold an all-out attack until he can attempt to negotiate reparations with Thorin. Thorin rejects the request for compensation, ignoring Bilbo’s (Martin Freeman) reminder that he had made a promise to the people of Laketown.
Meanwhile Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Radagast (Sylvester McCoy), Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Saruman (Christopher Lee) show up to rescue Gandalf (Ian Mckellen) from Dol Guldur, but are attacked by Nazgûl and Sauron (Benedict Cumberbatch) himself. Before they are overwhelmed, Galadriel is able to cast Sauron and his Nazgûl out of Dol Guldur. Once free Gandalf refuses to rest and rides for Erebor to warn Thorin and company of the orc army marching on them.
Outside Erebor Thranduil prepares to attack, allied with the small army of men from Laketown as an army of Dwarves lead by Thorin’s cousin Dain Ironfoot (Billy Connolly) arrives to aid Thorin in defending Erebor. As the battle between elves and men and dwarves began Azog (Manu Bennett) arrives with his army forcing elves, men, and dwarves to join forces to repel the brutal attack.
One significant problem in front of Peter Jackson with this and the other Hobbit films is with a well-known story surprises are rare. This leaves a writer and director with a difficult decision, deviate from the story, stick to it and deliver each element of the story the best possible way. Jackson took a bit of both. While he took some artistic license with the story and characters, he also presented well-known elements the absolute best possible way. The result was while I knew exactly what was going to happen at every step, I was pleasantly surprised a few times by the way events unfolded, and how they were presented. What I found to be the real treats in the Hobbit films were the elements that were not in the book, but details found in the appendixes and notes that Tolkien laid down to support the Lord of the Rings. These were story elements I only had a passing familiarity with, and was delighted to see on screen. I felt they added a great deal of depth to the story. Outside the “new” elements, I was thrilled to see the five armies on screen. It was something that existed only in my imagination until now. Honestly, I could not say that what I imagined was any better than what Jackson was able to put on screen, what I could say is that my childhood memory was pleased with what it saw.
The Battle of the Five Armies is, on its own, a weak film, heavy on action, light on development. I would caution anyone against holding that against this film, as it is not intended to stand on its own. Taken as the final act of the film series it is a strong finale offering satisfactory conclusions.