The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
(2014, 2 hrs 24 mins)
Bilbo Baggins has endured goblins, stone giants, trolls, giant spiders, elves, Orcs, and the lure of a magical ring to end up at the end of his journey in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (originally called The Hobbit: There and Back Again). The culmination of his struggles was well worth it, as the finale and epic battle neatly tied up his story and brings us to the doorstep of the LOTR trilogy.
The final chapter in the hobbit’s journey starts where the second film ended: Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who occupied the Lonely Mountain, has been awakened in the quest for the Arkenstone and promises plenty of fire and brimstone for the people of Laketown in retaliation. He lays waste to the town, but Bard (Luke Evans) escapes and kills him with the legendary Black Arrow. He is now the leader of the surviving townsfolk, and takes them to the Lonely Mountain for shelter, which has been reclaimed by Thorin (Richard Armitage), the next in line to be king of the Dwarves. Thorin has been mesmerized by all the gold, which has the curse of the dragon, or “dragon sickness”, making him mad with greed and mistrustful of everyone around him. The Elven army comes to claim their share of the dragon’s treasure, and when they are denied, an ultimatum is set in motion. Negotiations are plentiful and deals are broken, but all is forgotten as the Orcs’ massive monster army comes to decimate them all. Throw in the continuation of a romance between dwarf Kili (Aiden Turner) and elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), a struggle between the evil team Sauron and the Nazgul versus the powerful alliance of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and Saruman (Christopher Lee), plus a bus-load of action, and you have a truly fantastical and gripping battle film.
My review of the second film was not exactly a glowing one, but I am happy to report that there was plenty of redemption in this last film. The pacing was excellent, the monsters abundant, and the heart returned as we see characters fight, triumph, part ways, and gain each other’s respect and loyalty in Middle-earth.
I was surprised how much I like the more touching moments with Bilbo, but I enjoyed the battle scenes the most. The CGI was seamless and I really loved the Orc battle giants as the smashed and crashed their way into battle. I will say that I wished The Hobbit trilogy came out first. I felt like I was going backwards with all the LOTR action happening after Bilbo and his journey. I also thought that the CGI was almost too perfect looking at times, especially with skin texture, and the overall glowy, soft focus quality that seems to be a signature Middle-earth look. I know they worked long, long hours to perfect the computer effects, but sometimes imperfect isn’t so bad either. This pixie needs some graininess to her cinematic experience (yes, I’m weird like that).
I thought Richard Armitage did a great job becoming a mad dwarf king; there were scenes where you could see him physically transform in seconds from a kind leader to a crazy, suspicious king. I also enjoyed the characterizations of my favourite but nasty dragon Smaug, Tauriel the elven riot grrrl, Alfrid the weaseling Laketown counselor (Ryan Gage), and Azog, the evil Orc leader (Manu Bennett).
Although it may have taken some liberties with the Tolkien story to create a cohesive film, The Battle of the Five Armies was a satisfying and exciting final adaptation to a book I remembered from my childhood.
Favourite scene: I haven’t done this in a long time, but I had to mention one scene in particular. There is a very wide shot of the Laketown survivors on the shore listening to Bard as he instructs them to head to the mountain. Around the lower left-hand corner of the screen is a dirty little dog, who doesn’t look distressed in the least. Instead, it seems he is looking at what I imagine to be hundreds of crew members as they film this scene. It is an unexpected cute moment that of course I, as the crazed animal lover, would notice.