The Battle of the 5 Armies is the final installment in Peter Jackson‘s adaption of The Hobbit, a beloved fantasy novel (perhaps THE beloved fantasy novel) by JRR Tolkien. It is also the culmination of a 13 year journey for Jackson, who has painstakingly and reverently brought The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings trilogy to life.
Every film that Jackson has made in the series has been nominated for Best Picture. The Return of the King actually won the Best Picture award in 2004 and was one of the most decorated films of that year. As each film was released, audiences expectations rose accordingly. Jackson and his team were truly innovators, developing cutting edge techniques in all aspects of film making, up to and including the development of higher film speed ratios to deliver some of the most beautiful, fully immersive cinematic experiences of all time. High standards indeed.
The Hobbit film trilogy has generally been regarded as a let down after the triumph of The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Jackson has conceded that filming the Hobbit was more problematic simply because it is a relatively shorter story and is tonally different from LOTR. Portions of the novel are shifted in the film to form a better bridge to the tone of the LOTR movies. Evangeline Lilly’s character , Tauriel, was created by Jackson as a way to expand material introduced in the book. Such moves have caused discomfort among some of the novel’s most ardent fans.
If one sets aside those considerations and just watches the film for its own sake, we are still left with a film that succeeds more than it fails.
The film opens with the dragon, Smaug, unleashing his fiery wrath upon the people of Lake-Town. The scenes of Smaug’s attack and his subsequent death by Bard the Bowman of Esgaroth are outstanding and do much to create the atmosphere of despair and inevitability that permeates this film. Once Smaug is dispatched and the dwarves reclaim their treasure, we begin to see the downward tailspin that comes from the curse of greed and power as the armies of Dwarves, Men, Elves, Orcs and Eagles converge.
While the entire cast is topnotch, I feel it is important to note that Richard Armitage gives an Oscar worthy performance as Thorin Oakenshield. You can see and hear how one of the most important protagonists of the 1st two films is gradually corrupted and leads his people into an unnecessary war. A truly landmark performance.
Martin Freeman does a great job as Bilbo Baggins, the little Hobbit that serves as the moral conscience of the tale (yet with his own, Precious, secret) and helps inject the need to persevere agains all odds that gives us hope in this film.
Ian McKellan once again triumphs as Gandalf and it is an amazing feat to consider that he has played this character in every film since 2001.
Howard Shore has done another great job of building on his already iconic work on these film scores.
I think I’m going against the general consensus when I say that I believe this was my favorite of the 3 Hobbit movies. I felt it was successful in drawing this story to a satisfying conclusion and serving as a bridge to The Fellowship of the Ring. I feel like the biggest weakness of the film lies in 2 points. The unrequited love story between Tauriel and one of the dwarves feels contrived and unnecessary. The other thing that bothered me (and boy, is this a small quibble) is that in the battle scenes we see different types of giants and monsters used as WMD’s. Every time they wind up being comic relief. I think they went to that well too often as well as making me wonder why would any self respecting army commander put a giant idiot at the front of the attack?
My grade for The Hobbit: The Battle of the 5 Armies is A-.