With The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of Middle Earth have come full circle. Our film foray into Middle Earth is at a close (at least for the foreseeable future), and the parting has been bittersweet for me. I’ll always love Middle Earth, and Peter Jackson’s interpretation of it, and thus this may be a biased review.
The biggest weakness of the whole Hobbit trilogy is that it is a trilogy in the first place, or at least that’s what critics say. The harsher critics will mention “milking” the franchise, but I won’t be that critical, at least not of Peter Jackson and his team. Sure, I believe the studio wants to maximize its profits, but I don’t think the story as Jackson has told it is made any worse by making it three movies instead of one. The caveat here is that you need to see the entire Hobbit trilogy as one giant movie clipped into three parts; if you judge The Battle of the Five Armies as a stand-alone movie, it’ll feel incomplete and a bit weak. However, if you’ve seen the first two movies, you’re definitely going to want to see this one. It’s exciting, epic, and gloriously beautiful. It caps the Hobbit trilogy off wonderfully.
Mild to moderate spoilers follow in this review, but since this movie is based on a wildly popular book first published before Hitler invaded Poland, I’d say the statute of limitations on spoilers has expired by now (but a fair warning is given, just in case you’re one of the three people in the English-speaking world who hasn’t read it yet).
The last movie ended with Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) flying toward Lake Town, and this one wastes no time getting into the action as it starts off with the dragon laying waste to the human settlement with his scorching breath. The special effects and cinematography here are amazing, and I am a sucker for any movie with dragons in it. The dragon battle is relatively brief however, and it is over as Smaug is slain, even before the “Battle of Five Armies” title is presented on screen.
We then go over to Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Thorin (Richard Armitage), and dwarves, suddenly finding themselves holed up in the Lonely Mountain with a wealth of treasure that is now unguarded, thanks to Smaug’s demise. The armies of men and elves suddenly pile up at Thorin’s front door, which he seals off and goes inside the halls of his ancestors to sulk, as he is being slowly driven mad by his greed and his inability to locate the prized Arkenstone, which Bilbo had hidden away in his coat.
Meanwhile, an army of orcs are planning to attack the lonely mountain, while an army of dwarves are on their way to Thorin’s aid. There sure are going to be a lot of armies (five in total, as the title promises) at the foot of that mountain! Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) had been imprisoned in Dol Guldur by the Necromancer (a.k.a. Sauron, the Big Bad of that other story). He is rescued by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Radagast (Slyvester McCoy), in a battle that was never depicted in the Hobbit novel (but mentioned in other books). Admittedly, I loved this scene. It’s something I’ve always wanted to see ever since I read about it, and it doesn’t disappoint, although it veers off into cheesy territory slightly when Galadriel’s power is depicted on screen.
After that, Gandalf rides to the Lonely Mountain where things are getting a little tense. Needless to say, there is a huge battle which comprises the climax of the movie, but we never lose sight of the characters and their own personal conflicts, which play out at the very end on the battlefield.
The pacing, effects, acting, and cinematography are superb. Richard Armitage gave a magnificent performance as the tortured, conflicted, but ultimately heroic Thorin Oakenshield. Martin Freeman knocks it out of the park as a young Bilbo Baggins, and if the movie has a fault, it’s that there should have been more of him. It is his story after all! However, Jackson was aiming for epic and large-scale, and that’s what we got, and perhaps because of that the entire Middle Earth saga has a consistent tone to it. If you did a Hobbit and Lord of the Rings marathon, it would feel like a natural progression of events, even more so than the original books do.
Sure there’s a ton of embellishment from Jackson, but that’s to be expected from him after how much he added stuff to the Lord of the Rings movies. If you enjoyed it then, you’ll enjoy it now, and for me it meant being able to visit Middle Earth one more time. Since I am not judging The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies on its own, I won’t rate it. Instead, I give the entire Hobbit trilogy four out five stars, with this part being a satisfying finish to a great big adventure for a tiny hero and his larger than life friends.
Nur is a tinkerer of programmable things, an apprentice in an ancient order of technomages. He enjoys fantasy, sci-fi, comic books, and Lego in his spare time. His favourite authors are Asimov and Tolkien. He also loves Celtic and American folk music. You can follow him on twitter: @nurhussein