Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (2014)

January 6, 2015 3:41 pm

Eleven years on and once again we find ourselves saying goodbye to Middle Earth.  How quickly it’s all over, too; from the excitement of the first announcement through to the commencement of production, the first trailer and then finally seeing the film, it’s all been like an elongated version of the few weeks leading up to Christmas.  Unfortunately, our present wasn’t quite the flashy, hottest toy on the market we’d be hoping for, but the cheaper, disappointing knockoff with some fun features but ultimately less class.  Peter Jackson knows a thing or two, and his decision to pick up Guillermo del Toro’s dropped megaphone after so much early reluctance remains justified based on his previous Middle Earth exploits, but now that we’ve finally got the whole trilogy under our belts in what is likely a final farewell to this world, there too remains a morsel of regret, a longing for what could have been.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that Jackson regressed somewhat during production, that he realised he wished he was making The Lord Of The Ringsagain but didn’t have the material, so ended up getting caught between two films which differ tonally and thematically.  To supplement his desire he decided to stretch the (adequate) two films into a LOTR-esque three and began filling them with made up and often unnecessary characters and back story, cutting out important parts of the text along the way.  An Unexpected Journey will now be considered by most as the worst film, but at least that was attempting to be its own thing.  It embraced the lighter, adventurous tone and actually tried to be The Hobbit, unlike The Desolation Of Smaug which got so tangled up with being serious and becoming something it’s not that by the third viewing this review looks like unadulterated adulation.  Unfortunately for audiences, that meant the one important scene in the book which was actually devoted some proper screen time – an unexpected party – was arguably the least exciting.

So where does all that leave us for The Battle Of The Five Armies?  Well, even if it somehow turns about 40 pages into 144 minutes and makes it abundantly clear that Beorn, the shape-shifter we met fleetingly at the beginning of Desolation, is an unwelcome burden (he literally gets fifteen seconds in the battle), it’s something of a return to form.  Of the many dramatic licences taken in this trilogy, like the Tauriel/Legolas/Kili love triangle and pretty much the whole Gandalf side quest, the one that actually works, and yields the most compelling moments in Battle, is the relationship between Thorin and Bilbo.  As Thorin descends into crowned madness in search for the elusive Arkenstone, Bilbo turns diplomat, attempting to defuse tension between him and the rest of the company with the constant worry that at any moment Thorin will discover he’s withholding the stone.  Left relatively unexplored in the book, their interactions range from rather sweet and warming to pin-droppingly tense, which is more than anything else these films have offered.

The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies jpg

While the eponymous battle, which takes up the majority of the running time, is generally quite entertaining (even if it just sort of ends), the film is still plagued with coincidences and perfect timings.  The whole trilogy has been marred by this unrealistic contrivance where things just happen perfectly, often in the form of a big, overly lavish CGI set-piece, without any thought as to how or why.  Yes it’s a fantastical action adventure, but so is The Lord Of The Rings and that never felt the need to have these silly sequences where a watchtower crumbles at just the right moment to make a perfect bridge to the place Legolas has just decided he needs to get to.  It’s not an isolated slice of comedy like him taking down the Oliphant in The Return Of The King: it’s just lazy plotting and generic spectacle.

Ultimately, as hard as both this film and the trilogy as a whole tries, it’s all just a bit unspectacular.  Decent enough, and often fun, but unspectacular.  As The Battle Of The Five Armies draws to a close it’s abundantly clear that it wants to give the audience that same overwhelming emotion they experienced at the closing frame of The Return Of The King, but even in the knowledge that this is most likely the last time we’ll see this world, it’s hard to muster up anything of the sort.  To say it’s a complete failure would be unfair – it’s not – but in ten years time we’ll still be reaching for The Fellowship Of The Ring.

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  • Anwar Patish

    Great review and I couldn’t agree more. The film was enjoyable – but nothing on the LOTR series.

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