The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (review)
Director: Peter Jackson
Staring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry, and Ryan Gage
SPOILERS BELOW! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
This the final movie of a trilogy based on book (by J.R.R. Tolkien) that was a few hundred pages long. Yes, there is some padding of the story, but mostly it is the final chapters of the Hobbit saga. Anyone who has not seen the first and second movies should prepare to be confused…
What has happened in the first two movies:
A Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is approached by the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to be part of a group of Dwarfs, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to reclaim the fortress in the Lonely Mountain. On the journey there, they fight Goblins and Orcs, and meet up with the Woodland Elves, led by Thranduil (Lee Pace). They also meet other Elves, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly).
After a couple Disneyland-ride-like escapes, they arrive in Lake-Town and meet Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans). The Dwarfs enter the fortress, which is guarded by a dragon named Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). The dragon is hoarding all the gold and jewels and attempts to kill the intruders. The dragon gets loose and is about to destroy Laketown, which is led by the Master (Stephen Fry) and his lackey Alfrid (Ryan Gage).
Cue the Final Chapter of this Trilogy…
Smaug comes to destroy most of Lake-Town. The residents flee as Bard tries to hold off the dragon. He is able to slay Smaug, but the damage has been done. The people of Laketown go up to the entrance of the Dwarf fortress and ask for help. Bard had made a pact with Thorin to help the Dwarfs on their quest, and now the people need his help. Thorin, once enthroned on the seat of power ruled by his forefathers, refuses to give any assistance. He has been taken over by the ‘dragon fever’, the insatiable need for riches.
Meanwhile, Gandalf is being help captive by the head Orc named Azog, and his son Bolg. He needs help, and it comes in the form of the leader of the Elves, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), and the Wizard leader Saruman (Christopher Lee), They are attacked by the evil Sauron (Benedict Cumberbatch – again), but Sauron is defeated and sent to Mordor (and to another Trilogy).
At the Lonely Mountain, the Dwarfs are holed up and isolated, and Thorin keeps searching for a powerful jewel called the Arkenstone. They block the entrance and tell the Laketown people to leave. But soon the Elves, led by Thranduil, come also looking for treasure that was stolen by Smaug and is now in the fortress. They attempt to reason with Thorin, who will have no part in sharing (or caring).
Bilbo is troubled by this, since he had found the Arkenstone and he is hiding it. He gets out and meets with Bard and Thranduil, so that can bargain with Thorin for what they need. Thorin has sent word to his kinfolk, and his cousin Dáin Ironfoot (Billy Connolly) arrives with a Dwarf army. There is a big battle brewing between the Dwarfs, the Elves and the Free Folk (humans).
But Galdalf appears on the scene with bad news. Orcs and Goblins have joined forces to attack the Lonely Mountain and take everything. The Dwarfs must work with the Elves and the Free Folk to defeat a much bigger enemy. Looks like the making of ‘Five Armies’.
And what a battle it is! For good chunk of the movie, there are fights on all fronts, with Dwarfs taking on Orcs, with assistance from Elves. Free Folk take on Goblins and Orcs, where Dwarfs are fighting with them, and Elves are also helping. The main Orc Azog is high atop a peak, over a frozen waterfall, leading the mayhem and destruction. Thorin and his sons, along with Bilbo, sneak up there to stop him. There are some major fights between Orcs and Dwarfs on the peak, and a big one-on-one fight on the frozen waterfall between Thorin and Azog. In major battle, not everyone survives…
The movie is beautiful to behold, seeing all the lovely scenery of New Zealand, I mean, Middle-Earth. The CGI creatures are rendered with artistry and precision. The battle scenes are spectacular. And the fight on the frozen waterfall is superb. The use of 3D did not diminish any of the action, which is unusual.
Of course, with so many characters and plot lines, there are quite a few of them that get the short end. Legolas is turned into a freakin’ video game character at the end, with a scene of him leaping up falling bricks in a tower that is collapsing. There are only the briefest uses of Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman, without much context as to why they are important.
The excessive padding of the original story leads to some of the cheesiest dialog. The lady Elf Tauriel has fallen in love with Thorin’s son Kili (Aidan Turner), and this story line leads to tragedy. It seemed a bit unnecessary, and bloats the run time (141 minutes).
But for the most part, this is a truly fitting end for the Trilogy. Even if Tolkien is rolling over in his grave, this is a fantastic piece of movie-making. All the acting is terrific, especially Richard Armitage as Thorin. He plays the character as a Macbeth-style flawed hero, suffering from his own demons of guilt and greed.
Now, what else did Tolkien write? Did he leave a grocery list that Peter Jackson will turn into a two-movie epic? We shall see..
Length 144 minutes