Synopsis: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings to an epic conclusion the Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and the Company of Dwarves. The Dwarves of Erebor have reclaimed the vast wealth of their homeland, but now must face the consequences of having unleashed the terrifying Dragon, Smaug, upon the defenseless men, women and children of Lake-town. As he succumbs to dragon-sickness, the King Under the Mountain, Thorin Oakenshield, sacrifices friendship and honor in his search for the legendary Arkenstone. Unable to help Thorin see reason, Bilbo is driven to make a desperate and dangerous choice, not knowing that even greater perils lie ahead. An ancient enemy has returned to Middle-earth. Sauron, the Dark Lord, has sent forth legions of Orcs in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain. As darkness converges on their escalating conflict, the races of Dwarves, Elves and Men must decide-unite or be destroyed. Bilbo finds himself fighting for his life and the lives of his friends as five great armies go to war.
Release Date: December 17, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Adventure, Drama
In most cases, a movie franchise is only as good as its final film. If an ongoing property can stick the landing than most of the faults found in previous franchise entries will be mostly forgotten, or at the very least glossed over. Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy needed such a result with its final chapter, The Battle of the Five Armies, in order to ensure the Tolkien legacy remained strong. Unfortunately, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is hardly the epic conclusion fans were looking for. It starts with a bang, there’s no doubt about that, but by the time the 2-and-a-half hour film concludes, most will feel nothing; no sense of accomplishment, or loss, or nostalgia for the journey that has transpired. In essence, The Battle of the Five Armies accomplishes very few of its goals as a concluding chapter, and is only mildly entertaining as a piece of hollywood spectacle.
The story in The Battle of the Five Armies picks up immediately where the last film, The Desolation of Smaug, left off. The people of Lake Town are helpless against Smaug the dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch) and only the Bard (Luke Evans) seems willing to fight him. It may be the beginning of this film, but this sequence feels more like the climax of Desolation than the opening of Five Armies. That being said, the fight with Smaug is easily one of the best sequences Peter Jackson has ever produced. It’s smaller in scope, sure, but the pacing, the tension, and the effects are all pitch perfect.
Which makes the rest of the film even more of a let down. After building up so much potential in its first 20 minutes, The Battle of the Five Armies then tries to stay relevant for another two hours. The dwarf king Thorin (Richard Armitage) finally reclaims his people’s homeland, but becomes overwrought with greed. Thorin’s greed eventually alienates him from the displaced humans of Lake Town and the elves, who he believes are trying to reclaim the kingdom as their own. Eventually, the orcs throw their hat into the ring against the dwarves, and the table is set for a major battle – a battle of technically four, but five in Jackson’s mind, armies.
If that might seem light on story it’s because The Battle of the Five Armies really does use the titular battle as its focal point. Most of the important narrative bits have already been settled by now, and what we’re left with is one long series of CGI actions sequences. However, because the prior films never did well to establish all of its important characters or world states, it’s hard to find yourself invested in the battle. Where The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King had many component parts working in tandem, Battle of the Five Armies is more of a jumbled mess. In fact, some of the sequences read more like Tolkien fan-fiction than anything else, especially the film’s unnecessary inclusion of Legolas (Orlando Bloom). The choreography and effects are all top notch, if a bit overly fake, but the investment is wholly missing from the equation. So, rather than feeling like this massive, climactic battle, the sequence simply washes over you. It’s overwhelming in a bad way.
And when the battle has reached its necessary respite, that sense of relief is lacking as well. The intent is for the goodbyes to feel moving, but they hardly do their job. You get the sense that you should be feeling something, but the emotions never come. Rather, it’s hard not to be struck with the sense that this trilogy should have been better executed from a narrative standpoint. The action is good, but the development of characters and the pacing is sorely lacking. All the major players do their best to try to flesh out the roles, though, and their work should be commended. Freeman and Armitage are genuinely strong in the film, bringing gravitas as best they could. Ian McKellen is also great as Gandalf, but he’s pushed to the background too much to be but an afterthought. Good acting in a great movie elevates the material, especially an adventure as grand as this. But good acting in a mediocre movie feels like a waste.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a conclusion, but it’s neither a satisfying nor satisfactory one. Every note created by the final chapter of The Lord of the Rings seems present here, but the emotion behind those beats is completely muddled or occasionally lost. It’s hard to say that the film is spinning its wheels, since there is some thrilling action depicted on screen, but very few of those moments actually move the film forward. But the film disappoints most of all because it starts off so strong and in the process convinces you that any of the faults of the prior two films might have been sacrifices necessary to ensuring this final film hits its landing. Unfortunately, the scenes that follow the Lake Town sequence simply remind us of the inconsistent tone the series has carried all along.
While Peter Jackson may over rely on CGI at times, there’s no denying he knows how to create action sequences with immense scope, clever design, and great pace. For this final film, he certainly pulls out all the stops and where that might hurt the film’s narrative it does make for a very exciting film. Some may argue that Legolas has no place in a source material he isn’t technically a part of, but seeing Orlando Bloom do his thing once again is still a visual treat. Jackson also has a keen eye for cross-cutting between the various fights during the climax, making sure each sequence gets its due. And it can’t be emphasized enough how perfect that opening scene is. It sets a tone that was going to be hard to keep up with, but is nonetheless one of the best sequences Jackson has ever crafted.
Again, it may be a little too informed by the video game era, but this final film is no less enthralling because of it. It’s really the elements surrounding the action that diminish its highs. A film like The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies needs a strong story to bolster action, not strong action without character.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Peter Jackson
- Screenwriter(s): Fran WalshPhilippa BoyensPeter Jackson
- Story: Guillermo del Toro
- Cast: Lee Pace (Thranduil)Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel) Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug/Necromancer)Luke Evans (Bard)Cate Blanchett (Galadriel)Orlando Bloom (Legolas)Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins)Ian McKellen (Gandalf)Hugo Weaving (Elrond)
- Cinematographer: Andrew Lesnie
- Production Designer(s): Dan Hennah
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By: Howard Shore
- Country Of Origin: USA