The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the best of the Hobbit lot. It doesn’t come close to Peter Jackson’s cinematic versions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga, but at least it finishes up Jackson’s time in Middle Earth on a relatively happy note. The Hobbit #1 was a red hot mess. The Hobbit #2 redeemed Jackson in the eyes of many Hobbit fans, and now with The Hobbit #3 the filmmaker who’s devoted so many years delving into Tolkien’s world of hobbits, dwarves, elves, orcs, and wizards sends the whole series off with an action-packed, CGI-loaded movie that gives a wink and a nod to all of his previous visits to this fantastical world full of colorful characters.
While you might assume a movie titled The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies might actually feature a hobbit front and center in the story, that’s not the case with this third and final film of the franchise. This one’s actually all about the dwarves, in particular Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), and their return to their home in Erebor (aka Lonely Mountain). The dwarves take up residence following Smaug’s departure, however they aren’t the only race that wants the treasure stored in its vaults. Orcs, wargs, humans, and elves are all after a share of the treasure and a war breaks out, thus the film’s title of The Battle of Five Armies.
When we first catch up with the decidedly not merry band of dwarves and their hobbit companion, Smaug (with a velvety yet chilling voice supplied by Benedict Cumberbatch) is terrorizing Laketown. Smaug’s set fire to the settlement and its residents are fleeing in panic, with the exception of Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) who makes a stand against the gigantic fire-breathing beast. Jackson kicks off The Hobbit #3 with Smaug’s fiery attack, effectively setting the stage for battles to come.
There’s a few entertaining scenes of simple interactions between characters, but for the most part The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is short on dialogue and long on action scenes. Jackson actually made this final film the shortest of the set and packed it with so many fight scenes that keeping track of who/what is fighting for/against the dwarves’ rights to the Lonely Mountain is almost unnecessary.
Highlights among the many action sequences include Legolas (Orlando Bloom) in an epic fight against a CGI creature on a CGI bridge, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) attempting to protect her dwarf boyfriend, Thranduil (Lee Pace) riding around on an elf/moose/mythical beast-thing, and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) transforming into the creepiest elf ever seen in a Hobbit or LoTR film. Allegiances shift, Thorin loses his mind while obsessing about the Arkenstone, and the outcome of the battle for the mountain ultimately rests in the hands of a hobbit.
The Bottom Line:
While you’ll walk away from this final Hobbit film easily able to recall the action scenes, Jackson and his co-writers did manage to work in a few quieter, emotional scenes that help release the tension built up by watching orcs, elves, dwarves, and the rest of the creatures fight for control of the Lonely Mountain’s treasure. The elf-dwarf romance provides a tiny reprieve from all the warring going on, and any scene with Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) is a pleasure to watch.
The CGI is better overall in The Battle of the Five Armies than the first Hobbit film and there’s not a lot of extraneous material in this third film of the series. Fortunately, there’s not a single scene of dwarves wandering the hills or sitting around a table singing. Also working in this Hobbit‘s favor is a satisfying ending that doesn’t fool you into believing the credits are about to roll when there’s actually a few more false endings to come.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.
Running Time: 144 minutes
Release Date: December 17, 2014
-By Rebecca Murray
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