Film review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014), directed by Peter Jackson
The third and final instalment of the Hobbit saga begins in Laketown, where the inhabitants are trying to evacuate. Among them are, of course, the slimy Master (Stephen Fry) and his equally slimy aide Alfrid (Ryan Gage). In the middle of the evacuation Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) strikes. Fire ensues. Time for some thrilling heroics from Bard (Luke Evans).
Roll on a few action-packed minutes and the Laketownians regroup in the ruined city outside the Lonely Mountain. Alfrid is being the go-to slimy coward throughout, providing some welcome comic relief – which there isn’t a lot of in this film.
Meanwhile, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) go check out an orc fortress. There are going to be a lot of “meanwhiles” here, because to break up the battle scenes you get to see a few minutes from every storyline – one of which is the two elves going to check out the orc fortress. Another is Thranduil (Lee Pace) arriving with an elven army. A third is Gandalf (Ian McKellen) held prisoner and later gathering forces with the Lord of the Rings Reunion: Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Saruman (Christopher Lee).
The fourth one is inside the mountain, where Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) of Bag End is troubled. The dwarven leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) has got a bad case of dragon sickness – compulsive greed for the massive dragon hoard downstairs – and is not himself at all. Thorin’s paranoid and wants to turn the place upside down in order to find the Arkenstone.
When the humans come to ask Thorin to live up to the agreement struck in the previous film (“plz can we have some gold to re-build our lives”), he responds with having his full chorus of dwarves (Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, James Nesbitt, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, Peter Hambleton, Adam Brown, Jed Brophy, William Kircher, Stephen Hunter, John Bell, Mark Hadlow, and John Callen – over half of these don’t even have any lines to say) blocking the main gate.
And then there’s a big battle with orcs and elves and humans and dwarves and bats and other animals and there are many casualties. (If you’ve read the book, you won’t be surprised – if you haven’t read the book, you’ll be upset.)
Also starring Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown, Manu Bennett as Azog, Billy Connolly as Thorin’s cousin Dain, Ian Holm as Old Bilbo, and Mikael Persbrandt as Beorn.
In general I would say that if you loved the first couple of films, you’ll probably love this. If you hated the first two, a) why are you watching it? b) You’ll probably hate this one as well. If you thought the previous two films were okay but not the best thing since sliced bread, this film will be okay too. If anything, it’s better than the second film: things happen and it doesn’t just feel dragged out. The film’s 2.5 hours long but I never felt bored or like the film was getting tedious.
3D was well-done like before, and the high frame rate (HFR) still feels weird. Things just look too real, so you become aware of watching a film set – however beautifully it’s been crafted – rather than just getting involved in the story.
I’ve read several accounts of people needing lots of tissues toward the end of the film, but personally I never felt the need for any. I know who lives and who doesn’t, so it was just a question of time. That, and never feeling that emotionally involved with the characters. Not sure why. Maybe because they’d made it more into a Lord of the Rings reunion than just an adaptation of The Hobbit, not to mention all those frickin’ dwarves that serve little to no narrative purpose, which I have mentioned before.
A plus point would be that you get the tie-in with the Lord of the Rings in the form of older Bilbo (Ian Holm) meeting Gandalf all those years later. The problem is of course that the whole point of the One Ring is that it doesn’t age its owner, which is why Gandalf gets suspicious – he meets his old friend Bilbo fifty years (or so) later and he doesn’t seem to have aged a day. Yet in the films he has definitely aged quite a lot. Of course now Ian Holm is over a decade older and probably not quite up for the physical strains of the role, so they didn’t use him for younger Bilbo – and on the other end of that scale, a decade ago Martin Freeman would have been too young.
Another continuity fuck-up they make trying to shoehorn the story in as a prologue to the Lord of the Rings was how Legolas was suggested to go look for “a ranger called Strider”. It wasn’t a necessary comment to make, and if Legolas spends the next fifty-odd years looking for him, i.e. the time elapsed in the books between the end of The Hobbit and the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, he must be really shit at tracking if he can’t find him in all that time.
Thorin got to go full angst – well done, Richard. Thranduil was surprisingly enticing. Radagast’s bunny sled still rocks. Galadriel went all scary mode again, and it was terrifying.
As an achievement The Hobbit is outstanding, and the look of the films is stunning, the effects great, the acting’ is wonderful for the most part – but … it still feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to be the Lord of the Rings when it was never meant to be as big and serious as that. But I digress. Still kinda liked it.
4 out of 5 Arkenstones.