The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

What can I say? People know by this point that “The Hobbit” trilogy isn’t my cup of tea. Yeah they’re OK, but people want more than that, and they get upset when I have less to give them — which I most certainly do. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is the end of the cinematic universe of Tolkien for the foreseeable future due to issues with the Tolkien estate in securing rights to Tolkien’s other works (Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.’s son, hates these films unequivocally). I’ll say this to accommodate Hobbit lovers as well as people more akin to my taste. “The Battle of the Five Armies” is again over padded — even though it is the shortest of the six Peter Jackson films — and it still oozes CGI where it isn’t always need, even more so actually. However, it is the best of the Hobbit trilogy so if you enjoyed those, best start emptying your wallets.

First off a disclaimer, I viewed the film in 3D but not in high frame rate. I have no information whatsoever on how HFR actually looks so I won’t talk about it. I say this not as a “hater” but in sincerity when I say that you should see the film in 2D. 3D dulls the colour of the film and can often make busy scenes hard to distinguish (an issue “Pacific Rim” greatly suffered from). Not only will the film be cheaper but those busy action scenes that take up half the film are going to be much more gratifying without the glasses, trust me.

Right, so the film opens where the last one left off. If you haven’t seen the last one or the one before you may as well do it because this movie isn’t going to fill you in. The Dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) is destroying Laketown in a rain of fire and death, due to the Dwarves incursion into his illegitimate home of Erebor. Bard (Luke Evans) manages to take down the beast but only after the town is destroyed along with its corrupt leader (Stephen Fry). With nothing left, the people seek to retrieve from Thorin (Richard Armitage) — who is now King under the mountain — their share of Smaug’s treasure. Thorin is being driven mad with greed by the treasure of Erebor much like his ancestors before him, and when the Elves arrive to collect their share the threat of war begins to loom.

I’m in two minds. On the one hand Bilbo (Martin Freeman) technically is more important to this film because of his involvement with helping Thorin in his state of selfish greed and warmongering. But on the other he isn’t really in it that much, but when he is in it he is great as usual. I’ve already said that around half the film is an extended battle and being a little Hobbit he isn’t much use there. I wish it was more focused on him but I’ll take what I’m given. That does not mean I have to like it.

In the addition of extra content to pad out the trilogy into… a trilogy, we were given the side plot of the mysterious necromancer who turned out to be Sauron (also Benedict Cumberbatch) in the last film. This issue is quickly resolved early on in the film when Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) met up to banish the dark presence and his nine ethereal Ringwraiths. The resolution is an anti-climax and means that the whole ordeal feels as though it was literally included for extra running time. It’s the sort of thing I’d expect to be thrown into an extended edition for the real fans. Alas, it is not.

At least the film makes an attempt to build up. Perhaps some disclosure is required, in the first portion of this film I was in quite a bit of pain. There is a chance that I wasn’t fully involved in the films initial half. That said, I found it to be somewhat — though not totally — tedious. The Smaug part was very impressive and serves as a great action packed introduction, though it teeters off somewhat after that. When I re-watch the film on Blu-Ray a few months down the line and I feel that I’m more involved because I’m in a better condition and the lack of 3D really benefits the film, I’ll be sure to review it again.

At its base “The Battle of the Five Armies” is a film of two halves and the last half is more involving if a little bloated. The action is a vast improvement on the first two Hobbits and approaches a grandeur closer to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. There is actual weight in the fighting without the need for spurts of blood. Loud clangs of warhammer on breastplate make this possible, and it is welcome. Azog (Manu Bennet) interrupts the Dwarf-Elf standoff with his own army and this is when things really get messy (in a good way).

Yes it goes on a tad too long but I never became completely disengaged. It’s easy to enjoy, and I enjoyed enjoying it. I was pleased to see that they hadn’t altered the deaths that occurred in The Hobbit novel in favour of a more child friendly feel. To an extent it is hard to feel all that much for those that do kick the bucket but oh well. What’s less encouraging is the romance between Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) the Elf and Kili (Aidan Turner) the Dwarf. It is admittedly relatively minor but it does feel ham-fisted and unnecessary, I don’t really know anyone that enjoyed it in the last movie and I don’t see them changing their minds here.

It’s not as if I can dissuade people for going to see the film, even I would have seen it regardless of the reviews just because I’ve seen the first two. So, it should be judged based on your opinion of the last two films. If you didn’t like either, it won’t change your mind, if you liked or loved both, this ones even better. Either way it is relatively good, despite its over-indulgence.


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