The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, review

Peter Jackson’s final chapter of J R. R. Tolkien’s fantastical Middle Earth came crashing into cinemas in December with a forty-minute battle scene, CGI Orks and a lot of over-the-top action that felt better placed in a B-movie. While there are certainly moments to be heralded, the fact that this third film is the last part in a six movie franchise is something to be relished. Jackson, we love you, but it’s time to hangup that Middle Earth cloak. Beginning with one hell of an opening – get set for a brief return from that dastardly Smaug and some awe-inspiring graphics that see Lake Town go up in smoke – The Battle of the Five Armies feels like one overly-long 144 minute scene. While An Unexpected Journey and Desolation managed to successfully combine the stories of a set of characters, this final effort feels messy with the Elves, Dwarves and residents of Lake Town all coming together for one last battle (which was not even described in Tolkien’s novel). For many, the source material does not sufficiently lend to three films – and that point is verified here.

Luke Evans takes centre stage as Bard The Bowman, newly elected as leader of the people, Bard is tasked with finding a new home for his family and wants his Town’s fair share of the gold over at good old Thorin‘s hangout on The Lonely Mountain. Meanwhile, Legolas (looking as youthful as ever), Tauriel (Evangeline Lily is an absolute triumph here) and co are coming to join the fight and equally want to reclaim what’s there’s. Thorin refuses to give in to them due to his thirst for the Arken Stone which our favourite Hobbit Bilbo has acquired. It’s a simple enough tale but is unfortunately over-taken by Jackson’s apparent need for constant action. Yes, you are right, I was a little disappointed.

promotional still for the hobbit: the battle of the five armies

promotional still for the hobbit: the battle of the five armies

There are certainly loveable attributes to Jackson’s film, the main few being the arrival of Billy Connolly as Dwarfe Dain, the death of Smaug is a spectacular visceral opening which has to be seen on the big screen, and the ending is suitably whimsical (it means more because viewers are aware of the Ring’s future). The biggest bug bare for me was the unrealistic CGI which took play during some gravity-defying battle moments that were so surreal it was almost funny. The Lord of the Rings looked stunning and how, eleven years after the last, the quality of graphics has somehow taken a dive, is surprising and leaves one with a feeling of dismay – the Orc’s don’t even have their streak of pure terror that can always be seen in previous ventures.

Middle Earth, and more importantly Tolkien, will remain in the hearts of cinema-goers and book lovers for decades to come. Peter Jackson created something memorable with LOTR, and so nearly with this last series of films too. Ian Mckellen seen for the last time here as Gandalf is as loveable as he has ever been, and adds a wonderful humour when appropriate. With too many corny moments and not enough originality to make it stand out, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the weakest of the trilogy which doesn’t allow Martin Freeman enough space to flourish.

More of a fairytale jaunt then that of the grit that LOTR previously carried with it, this final offering is not a masterclass in blockbuster cinema but easy-watching that ties up the story of Bilbo, Thorin and his band of Dwarves simply enough.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – trailer release

The most eagerly awaited blockbuster of the year, hands down, has to be this, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Being the third, and final, installment in a series of films that has  captured the hearts and imaginations of millions, is a an important position to hold, and certainly looks as  though it will offer everything and more audiences are expecting. The final feature trailer has finally arrived, with a month until release, and scenes of battle and blistering effects dominate. The previous two have been journey movies, a bit like what we had with LOTR but with less action, and more family-friendly material. The first film, An Unexpected Journey offered up singing Dwarves and a naive, and untraveled Bilbo. The cinematography was as stunning as ever (everyone remembers the 48fps debate, but it certainly paid off) and being able to revisit Middle Earth, and some beloved characters was a treat all on its own. That’s almost all we needed in the first, and that’s pretty much all that we got (with some confusing plot-folds too, of course). The second, The Desolation of Smaug stepped up the game, bringing tense action (featuring Benedict Cumberbatch in his first performance capture role as the malevolent Smaug) and the pace literally picked up, as Thorin and company continued their trek to retrieve the Arkenstone.

the hobbit: the battle of the five armies

the hobbit: the battle of the five armies

For me, The Hobbit films have presented themselves as accessible material, for audiences that previously might not of been clued-up on the happenings of this fantasy world. The adventure theme has been wonderful through-out, the first two were joys to view at the cinema (the glorious effects can only fully be appreciated on the big screen), and Martin Freeman makes a wonderful Bilbo, as he strengthens and finds his feet away from his home, The Shire (a place we all wished we lived, right?). Desolation ended with the audience on tender-hooks I’m sure, with Smaug outwitting Thorin and co, and Lake-Town being his destination of wrath. Five Armies promises a return of Sauron and his terrifying Cockney (re-watch LOTR and you’ll know what I mean) Orcs and a battle of epic proportions, to not only take down Smaug, but for the Dwarves to take back their home. The Trailer featured Orlando Bloom’s Legolas and Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel a-plenty, pulling some impressive skills against the hordes of mythical creatures coming to attack, as well as scenes of thousands of soldiers lined up, prepared to fight, which felt reminiscent of the best moments of The Two Towers.

The trailer opens with Bilbo reminding Thorin of a promise he made, and Luke Evans’ Bard the Bowman blaming him for the ruin brought upon his town. These moments bring the feeling of a poignant end for a series of films that have been in the hearts of viewers for over thirteen years. The final trailer was released sixteen hours ago, and has already received over two million views – which tells you everything you need to know. This series of films would have to do something extreme with the narrative, or characters, to alienate a legion of fans. And I’m almost certain it wont. December 17th sees it’s release in both 3D and IMAX, and you can watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVAgTiBrrDA