Published on December 17th, 2014 | by Allan Brown4
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review
Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, J.R.R Tolkien (Novel)
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett. Aidan Turner, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Graham McTavish, James Nesbitt
And so it has come, the deceive chapter in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy, culminating in a body of work spanning over 7 epic years. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you; The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
The story picks up where The Desolation of Smaug left us, where Thorin and his band of merry dwarves including one dishevelled Hobbit, unwittingly set forth the wrath of Smaug the magnificent – a fire breathing dragon – on the unsuspecting people of Lake Town. But just as lizard leg meets his demise, word quickly spreads to the four corners of Middle Earth of an unguarded mountain of treasure. And so, armies of men, elves, orcs and everything in between make haste for the Lonely Mountain, were Thorin (overcome with dragon sickness/greed) now King under the mountain, must answer to the cries of war.
Peter Jackson was always going be up against it when it came to filming the Hobbit. The sheer volume of primary characters on screen at any given time was going to prove a problem right from the very start. The obvious decision was to focus on a few key characters, namely Thorin and Bilbo, acutely developing their own story along the fraught and perilous journey. And while the entire cast turn in a wonderful range of colourful performances, it is the core relationship between Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Thorin (Richard Armitage) that the film offers a welcomed sense of realism and emotional weight amongst the fractured narrative and countless battle sequences.
Peter Jackson has crafted a spectacular finale to an epic trilogy
Freeman again effortlessly commands every scene he is in. From his jittery and quirky persona to his often hilarious physical reactions, lift the film from what may have been a very monotonous 8 hour jaunt, into something far more interesting. His performance feels altogether natural and even with the often stiff Tolkein-esque dialogue; Freeman delivers it with conviction, emotion and utter authenticity.
Opposite Freeman is Richard Armitage, who offers his best performance in the trilogy, perfectly conveying Thorin’s intoxicating sickness and greed, but never overplaying it – something I feel plagued his performance on occasion in the previous offerings. His character arc comes to a head where every nuance of emotion and realisation is felt in his heart rendering final act.
So what can be said of the narrative itself? Well, the title pretty much says it all; it really is a battle royale. However, as the many glorious battle sequences rage on, key character arcs and sub-plots are finalised, and this all too often creates a problem. Jumping from one location to another, or from one splintered party to the next, immediately voids any emotional connection or moment of tension that was created in the previous scene. Indeed, tragedy is quickly followed by visual gags and epic ariel shots of war are followed by intimate one on one stand off’s. While these sequences are all visually stunning, the inconsistent tone and rhythm often feels unbalanced. And even at 141 mins, the film still feels rushed, as new key characters (Dain – Billy Connolly) appear without any real introduction, as do the sudden appearance of countless foes, worms, goats, trolls, goblins…where did they all come from so quickly? There really is so much going on in the final act that few scenes are given the room they require to breath, not least the blink and you’ll miss it journey home. One can only hope a lengthy extended cut is on the way to flesh out these scenes and characters.
Even with the often stiff Tolkein-esque dialogue; Freeman delivers it with conviction, emotion and utter authenticity
Despite its few flaws, Peter Jackson has crafted a spectacular finale to an epic trilogy. He is the master of set pieces and the battle sequences showcased here have never been realised on screen with such magnificence and awe before, they truly are artistically flawless. The camera swoops in and out of scenes, creating an exhilarating, almost roller-coaster effect that will have you on the edge of your seat. On top of all the visual wonderment, this final chapter is without a doubt the most powerful and emotive in the entire trilogy, and although this Middle Earth is perhaps a little more child friendly the LOTR, it really is true escapism at its very finest.
Summary: A crowning achievement by all involved and a spectacular finale to an epic journey, Middle Earth it has been an absolute pleasure.