Movie Review: ‘The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies’
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Sir Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lee Pace, bunch of other people.
Plot: With Smaug awake and the armies of Middle-Earth marching upon the Lonely Mountain, the sixth and final film in the Tolkien based fantasy movies sets the stage for an epic battle.
Review: So here’s the thing. The Hobbit should never have been three movies. Even with all the extra material added this series has been needlessly padded and stretched thin. Much of this excess baggage gets dragged into the final chapter but when all is said and done, this becomes a bombastic extended action sequence the likes of which we rarely see.
Let’s talk about the problems first. As said, there is some really pointless baggage carried into this movie and it makes the first act feel like it’s dragging. Kili and whatshername continue their forbidden romance with zero chemistry and no basis other than a two minute conversation about a rock. The disinteresting politics of Lake Town eventually gets ironed out but feels mostly pointless. Legolas is still…there. We also get a lot of screen time dedicated to Thorin suffering from ‘dragon sickness’, symptom’s include being a total dick, and it drags the film to an almost complete standstill.
Worst of all is the entirely unmemorable deputy mayor character from Lake Town is reappears again and again and again. He’s played for comic relief but he’s downright annoying. The other characters, mostly Bard, not only endeavour to keep him around but give him important jobs to do, which he inevitably screws up. I’m not kidding when I say his final scenes involve him doing a whacky cross-dressing routine in the middle of battle. It’s like Jar-Jar Binks all over again.
It takes about an hour of the two-and-a-half hour running time to get all the ducks in a row and unleash chaos, and when all the negative is said and done this is, without a doubt, the most amazing example of fantasy action we have been lucky enough to enjoy.
Thousands of elves, dwarves, humans, orcs, trolls and goblins clash in a violent and massive battle at the foot of the mountain and it’s every bit as gargantuan as you’d expect. Seeing it on the big screen in 3D is a must. The creature and art designs are amazing, the action imaginative and it does manage to get the audience emotionally invested in how the characters fare. Lee Pace as the elf king along with Legolas begin to serve a real purpose and contribute to the internal conflict of the ‘good’ side. Billy Connolly joins the fray as a dwarf leader who provides a lighter side to Thorin’s dickishness. Azog returns as the main villain and he continues to menace.
Some of the CGI doesn’t gel as well as the bulk, and some of the sequences border on silly (stop playing with the bats, Legolas). Other elements wind up with no pay-off. Giant worm monsters stick their heads out but don’t do anything, and Beorn the shapeshifter was afforded about 3 minutes of screen time after being built up in the previous movie. On the flip side we see Elrond and Sauroman getting stuck into the combat and some nice new creatures in the fray.
The Hobbit trilogy has plenty of mis-steps and will always be a pale shadow of the Lord of the Rings set of films. It never had a handle on it’s characters (Bilbo even seems sidelined for much of this final chapter) and lacked the emotional connection with the story. That said, we really enjoyed this final chapter. The second half echoes the final act of Return of the Jedi, a huge, exciting action sequence that ties everything together. By the time the final credits roll things feel nicely tied up and satisfying. If you have even a passing interest in fantasy action you owe it to yourself to see this on the biggest and big screens.
Oh, the dragon. He’s amazing. The best that cinema has seen.
Rating: EIGHT out of TEN