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.
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.