The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
The Short- Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series definitely never lived up to his Lord of The Rings trilogy, yet The Battle of the Five Armies is Jackson’s shortest venture into Middle Earth even if it may not be the best film in the franchise. The finale may not reach the rarified air of the LOTR films but it is the most action packed of the series and comes to a much cleaner conclusion then Return of The King.
Where do you begin with The Hobbit Series? We know what the issues are, for example the fact that the films were split from 2 movies to 3 as an ultimate cash grab especially considering the entire series is based on Tolkien’s shortest work in his series. A third film, the ultimate cash grab from a director who made his name making big budget movies where every cent went back into making the most realistic fantasy film series in history (I’m not comparing Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings here). The Hobbit needed to search for stories, search for plot, and introduce a mess of new characters into an already fully fleshed out world. A world we were introduced too that took us through the 2000s and helped plenty of people get back into the world of fantasy filmmaking. Jackson’s Lord of The Rings series is nothing short of a masterpiece and I know there are plenty of arguments for it to be the greatest trilogy of all time. Sadly, The Hobbit won’t enter that list but it’s not for the reasons you may think. It’s mostly because all three films have a huge plot problem, and also the question of “Why should I care?”
It also doesn’t help that Martin Freeman, who behind Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, and Hugo Weaving is most definitely the best actor in this cast, is turned into a minimal character in the films finale. I agree with some critics saying The Hobbit is less about Bilbo Baggins and more about the journey of Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the leader of the group of dwarves that journey to reclaim their home Kingdom. This is both a little sad because Bilbo is an extremely interesting character but to keep this series going 3 long films you have to introduce other main characters, like LOTR with Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, and Aragorn being the films main characters. Oakenshield has already reclaimed his place on the throne of Erebor by the time we return to him mere moments after the end of The Desolation of Smaug. Thorin is already power drunk, totally enthralled by his riches, so much so that he begins to think his group is working against him. It’s ok with me where Jackson, Boyens, and Walsh (Del Toro is credited as a screenwriter but left the project after the first film) take The Battle of the Five Armies, it has twice as much action as the first two films on a runtime that is at least 20 minutes shorter. The script is filled to the brim with looks forward to the next four films and quite literally bridges the gap making it possible to watch 6 movies in a row and have a cohesive story. The dialogue lacks passion and substance and defiantly brought more brevity to these films. Even if the jokes may not fit scene to scene it will make you chuckle a few times. The Battle of the Five Armies is not a bad movie, in fact none of The Hobbit films are, but they do lack the majesty of the Lord of The Rings movies and even with updated special effects there is never a battle or an action sequence as memorable as the ones in Return of The King or The Two Towers. It is arguable that the best action sequence in The Hobbit Series will be when you have the ability to watch the final half hour of The Desolation of Smaug into the first 20 minutes of The Battle of the Five Armies.
Yes The Battle of the Five Armies does waste one of its most talented actors with not a single memorable moment for Martin Freeman, and it definitely did not need to be 3 films, especially considering there are entire characters and plot lines that can be thrown out, especially almost every member of Laketown. Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman is one of the film’s most relatable characters and he is also the new addition to the series that works best but The Master of Laketown played by Stephen Fry and his second in command Alfrid played by Ryan Gage (who is this films Jar-Jar Binks) are so irrelevant by the time the third film begins one is eliminated almost immediately and the other sticks around for a few silly moments throughout. It seems like an entire plot was possibly cut from the films shooting script turning Alfrid into a whiney, wimpy character that was used as a device put into the fray for a more dramatic side plot that never came. So when gage reported on the first day of filming they just kept him around.
As I previously stated the film is more about Thorin Oakenshield so it’s Richard Armitage’s job to carry most of the film with Luke Evans’ Bard coming in a close second. Armitage and Evans both give good performances, especially considering both are given the juiciest roles. Armitage plays Mad Thorin just as well as he does before the king under the mountain gets his prized gold and Evans matches his intensity in a few important moments throughout the film. As for the more classic characters, we do get one scene with Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, and Cate Blanchett, and all three kick serious ass for about 5 minutes then are not seen again. As for Ian McKellen as Gandalf, McKellen is the most consistent actor to play a character 6 times on film I’ve ever seen. He is probably also one of the first to complete such a feat. McKellen is always great as Gandalf no matter what role is character plays in the films conclusion, Gandalf is there to make Bilbo feel safer, and he has managed to do that for audiences. I feel myself feeling safer with Gandalf around, whether it’s fighting off Necromancer’s or Nazgûl. McKellen leaves his most iconic role behind which is sad, but it’s ok because the actor will pick up next year as Sherlock Holmes in Bill Condon’s adaptation of Mitch Cullin’s A Slight Trick of The Mind entitled Mr. Holmes. The Battle of The Five Armies also gives us a Legolas fix with Orlando Bloom continuing that role for all 5 of the 6 films. Bloom continues the epic fight scenes even if the character probably would not have been in the film if the order was reversed and The Hobbit was told first.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a good movie, it is not a great movie and it still doesn’t compare to the original films. It does have the cleaner ending and Jackson and company leave few holes remaining. Whether or not this is the final film in the series or not (Some suspect Jackson will attempt to bring other Tolkien works alive) it is not a bad series of films, it’s just hard to turn a prequel shorter than the combined efforts of three original books into a cohesive trilogy. You hope the idea to move The Hobbit into a trilogy wasn’t just a cash grab but a creative attempt to make something just as epic. Don’t get me wrong The Battle of the Five Armies has some very epic fight sequences, including the movies its opening sequence and climax, both are truly awesome and lots of fun to witness. Jackson spent over a decade working on The Lord of The Rings and Hobbit films and he has made something truly epic but his new series was destined to lack the overall strength of the original trilogy of films that turned a small time filmmaker into a movie legend.