The Battle for Middle Earth has begun! Oh, wait, that’s already happened. Or will happen. It really depends on how you look at it, I suppose.
Peter Jackson’s journey through JRR Tolkien’s fantasy epic The Hobbit has finally come to an end. It was always going to be a challenge; stretching the last film out into a fully rounded film was inevitably doomed to fail. Everyone saw it coming. Red flags hung everywhere. There just wasn’t enough material to warrant a third installment. We could bring up the same old argument about how this was all for money – extending the book to three films, thus creating more profit – but it’s been said and I think we should leave that beaten Oliphaunt alone.
The Battle of the Five Armies picks up where we last left off – with Smaug making his way to Lake Town to exact his fury upon the townsfolk. The sequence is pretty spectacular and you can almost feel the heat from Smaug’s fiery breath. But the tension is lost with the audience forced to recall where certain characters are. Over the year you have forgotten how Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) ever came to be in prison. What did he do again? While you try to recall the incident to which caused his incarceration Smaug continues his fire storm of destruction. Who else forgot Kili (Aidan Turner) was poisoned and brought back to health by Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and that they had a semi-romantic connection? If you did not rewatch The Desolation of Smaug on DVD before going to see The Battle of the Five Armies, then like me, you’d be thinking about what happened in the last installment rather than enjoying the one currently on the screen.
The end of Smaug comes from Bard and his son on top of a damaged bell-tower. The scene is filled with pseudo tension. We should care what happens to them but we’ve forgotten why. In our minds we have only just reconnected with these characters. Smaug’s attack on Lake Town feels empty. It didn’t belong at the beginning of The Battle of Five Armies. It belonged at the end of The Desolation of Smaug.
The Battle of the Five Armies is essentially one big fight sequence. There can be no doubt about Peter Jackson’s ability to direct an action scene, but for the most part the action is stale and boring. Without characters all that remains are Men, Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs crashing into each other. And even then the fighting fails in comparison to the battle scenes in Two Towers (Battle of Helm’s Deep) and Return of the King (Battle of Gondor).
The problem with Jackson’s final film is there are very little story arc’s. Bilbo’s (Martin Freeman) arc was finished at the end of An Unexpected Journey. He realised he had a home to go back to and wanted his friends to have the same. In The Desolation of Smaug he doesn’t have much of an arc. He basically discovers he has a little bit more courage than before and goes up against Smaug. Bilbo’s only task in The Battle of the Five Armies is to keep the Arkenstone away from Thorin (Richard Armitage) because he has become corrupt with gold. Slightly hypocritical of Bilbo, seeing as he’s addicted to a most powerful, and evil, ring. Thorin is the only character who struggles with who he is and who he has become. In a weird scene we see him overcome his demons and eventually do the right thing.
But many of the other dwarves are left in the shadows and barely get a word in. They lie in wait (in the shadows) and emerge when the film calls for it, to remind the audience they’re still around. And the film clearly suffers because of it. There is more of Legolas (Orlando Bloom), if you like that sort of thing. He does seem better rounded, with more purpose than in Lord of the Rings. And then you have Evangeline doing her best to love a dwarf who eventually… Ahheemm… If you have read the book you’ll know.
Despite some impressive imagery and choreographed fights, there are very few moments that stick out. And the ones that do stick out you wish were cut from the film . Scenes are tacked on and hurried through. Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, and Cate Blanchett cameo as they fight ghostly figures in order to rescue Gandalf (Ian McKellen) from the clutches of the Necromancer – who turns out to be Sauron. Big surprise. Unfortunately, it has no real relevancy to the plot of the actual film and serves only to complete an unnecessary sub-plot.
The film does manage to round everything up nicely (better than the Star Wars prequels) and we are spared five different endings. The goodbyes are short and sweet and we do not linger on the fallen. A single sentence and that is all that is needed.
The Battle of the Five Armies is faster paced, shorter in length, but is Jackson’s least memorable film of the Middle Earth films. There was not enough source material or character development to stretch it to such ridiculous lengths. I do hope someone out there, in the internet world, will reedit the three movies into one epic film. That is the only way I will every watch The Hobbit again.
Just go read the book. The book is amazing. 5/10