That was one long battle scene – however, The Hobbit trilogy ends with a relatively good movie.
If you had read my reviews of the first two parts of The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug – you would know that I was coming into this final film with mixed expectations. Like so many others, I found myself criticizing director Peter Jackson’s deviations from the novel, which made the films much longer than they needed to be. Some of his changes worked, while others did not.
With The Battle of the Five Armies Jackson continues to drift away from his source material, but not too far, and in most cases the additions were a positive in creating a film that has a good story and impressive visuals.
A couple of spoilers ahead … The movie begins with Smaug the Dragon attacking Laketown, where he incinerates the humans until coming up against Bard the Bowman. It is only when Smaug is killed and crashes back into the burning remains of the town that the film actually begins. The beast’s demise sets in motion various armies, who will converge on the Lonely Mountain.
Much of the focus in this film is the story of Thorin Oakenshield, who now regained his home, but has become corrupted by his greed. Since he cannot find the Arkenstone – the most important of the dwarves’ treasures – he gradually becomes more withdrawn and suspicious, almost to the point where he will turn on the members of his own company. Thorin’s character, played well by Richard Armitage, goes through a nice narrative arc.
The many other characters – Bilbo, Gandalf, the other dwarves – don’t get as much screen time as you would expect, but they also have to compete with enhanced roles for Bard the Bowman and the Elf king Thranduil. Numerous small stories get a few minutes of time to be played out, such as Bard having to protect his family, and the romance between the dwarf Kili and the elf Tauriel.
The final battle scene is quite long – I was thinking to myself that I’ve watched entire films that were shorter than this, but enough is happening that one does not get bored of seeing another orc head being chopped off. While in previous films the attacks from the orcs and goblins were usually comical, in this great battle they come off as a more serious threat. The plan set in motion by Azog the Defiler was quite smart (thinking from a medieval military point-of-view) and we do see many elves, dwarves and men being overrun and killed.
Overall, I think if you have endured watching the other films in The Hobbit, you should go see The Battle of Five Armies, as it does a reasonably good job in finishing up Peter Jackson’s take on Tolkien’s works. It is too soon for me to take a look at all six films he has made, but I think that in a few years Ill sit down (over a couple of weeks) and rewatch the films, starting with The Hobbit series and then working my way into The Lord of Rings trilogy so I can make a better judgment on the story he created. Or, I might just read the books again.