- Directed by Peter Jackson
- December 1, 2014 (London premiere) / December 11, 2014 (New Zealand) / December 17, 2014 (US)
- Based on the 1937 novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Bilbo and the company of dwarves face a war against multiple armies as they try to keep control of the liberated Erebor.
Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) was the teased threat in the first film and a significant factor in the last film. You get to see him engage in some serious destruction here at the start of the story but that doesn’t last too long as Bard (Luke Evans) dispatches him early in the film. I admit to being unfamiliar with The Hobbit book, so I was left a little confused over what the conflict was going to be. The big bad was gone so what next?
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies does not quite have as much substance of its own as its predecessors do and is more interested in wrapping things up than exploring themes or ideas. That is unfortunate but it does not make it a weak film since what it uses largely comes from the two preceding movies. Not all of it but there is plenty from those.
The Wood-elves have amassed their forces at the gates of Erebor to get back some of their property. What exactly that is I do not know. There is some vague talk of jewels by the elvish king Thranduil (Lee Pace) but how the dwarves came to have them since everything in the mountain was mined from there I do not know. The humans on the other hand have a much better explained claim on goods and materials as they were promised payment for helping the dwarves in The Desolation of Smaug and now they need it to rebuild their town or just to start over.
There is tension on all sides and Thorin (Richard Armitage) having been corrupted by dragon sickness (which is a stand in for greed and just general corruption) refuses to negotiate in any way. Bigotry and all his biases play into his decision making as does his growing greed and coveting of the material wealth that he and his people have access to once again.
The final battle, which you think will be between humans, dwarves, and elves turns into an epic battle with the orc forces who have their own agenda. This conflict is heavy on the CGI but visually stunning and just rather all-around impressive.
More importantly it’s not a battle just to end the film on an exciting note but the battle portrayed is a culmination of the narrative of the story. It has impact for the characters. You can argue that every battle is a culmination of a narrative, but this is what everything was leading towards. This is not just a slugfest to take down the villain. Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett) must be stopped. The dwarves need to finally secure the mountain and come to some kind of understanding with those around them and so forth. It is not just solely a spectacle to give everybody something to be excited for the end.
The Battle of the Five Armies touches on duty and keeping your word and how painful true love can be. It also touches on how being a true friend sometimes means doing things that may upset your friend for their own good. Here Bilbo (Martin Freeman) has to take the one thing that Thorin truly wants above all else, the Arkenstone, and hand it over to Thranduil and the humans as a means to stop a conflict which will get the extremely outnumbered dwarves slaughtered.
Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) feels how painful love can be when it comes to Kíli (Aidan Turner). Love is not all romantic walks and other sweet moments. It can be painful and involve great sacrifice. The loss of a genuine love can hurt like no other as Tauriel learns.
The Battle of the Five Armies is dialogue heavy and when the action starts it’s starts running and never lets up. The tide of the battle twists and turns. You feel the highs and lows and are on the edge of your seat.
But more importantly with a few lines and some quality directing the dwarves become really badass. They don’t have to be shown kicking a bunch of butt or anything. You want to stand up and go “Hell yeah!” when the moment comes. Some directors can’t do that in an entire movie. Peter Jackson did that with a few minutes of film and direction.
While the battle in the film takes on a much more rousing tone, the ending of the battle and the film is rather somber. Characters die. Not everyone gets a happy ending or the potential for a good future. You feel Bilbo’s pain not only as he has to leave his newfound friends but also when he returns home and Thorin is mentioned. What promised to be a fun adventure for him turned into something more. He was changed.
The Battle of the Five Armies is a great well directed film and an epic conclusion to the prequel trilogy. I do feel that some of the efforts to tie into original LOTR films are a little forced. I’m guessing those were additional elements in order to not only expand the narrative but as I said tie into the previous films.
I’m not saying they’re bad but the gathering of LOTR characters seemed a bit forced. Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Evangeline Lilly, and Orlando Bloom all show up as their LOTR characters. Lilly and Bloom go down easy as they have plenty to do and their characters help move things along but the rest feel a bit like an unnecessary side quest. It was cool to see but ultimately pointless to the narrative.
I expected a heavy-handed moment where Saruman (Christopher Lee) was clearly shown to be the villain he is in the future that those around him somehow missed. What we got instead was a moment that would seem innocent to those present right then but given knowledge of the later films is a bit sinister. Kudos to Jackson and company for doing a great job there.
That aside the additional elements are once again difficult spot. I again give Peter Jackson and company credit for that. I can’t praise them enough. None of it feels really out of place. As I’ve said before extra material can stick out like a sore thumb because it’s not done towards honoring the source or what the creator might’ve added. Here their goal was to honor the source and the creator and thus it is almost impossible to discern which is which.
For a spectacle film this manages to be well-acted and pack an emotional and dramatic punch. You feel the highs and lows of the characters. You are excited for the events of the film. And this looks as big and epic as anything you could find in any other film. And it’s all done in a well-acted and well-directed film with a fantastic story. How come more movies can’t accomplish this? It is spectacle with substance and that was once common but is now rare.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a fantastic bit of epic storytelling that is fine drama and just great spectacle. You’ll feel the highs and lows and the excitement throughout. This is definitely something that you should see!