When it was announced that Peter Jackson was making a screen adaptation of The Hobbit, I knew right off the bat that it would be a completely different experience than his Academy Award-winning Lord of the Rings films. Anyone who has read any portion of either The Hobbit or The Fellowship of the Ring can tell that The Hobbit is written for a younger audience and is meant to be enjoyed in a different way than Tolkien’s epic trilogy. They are different types of stories, and should be evaluated separately. For this final installment in the Hobbit trilogy, Jackson has dialed up the action with some epic Middle-Earth warfare.
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies picks up right where The Desolation of Smaug left off. The great dragon Smaug has left the Lonely Mountain to terrorize the nearby village of Laketown as Bilbo and his dwarven companions are forced to look on helplessly. It is soon also revealed that Smaug isn’t the only threat to our heroes; an elven army commanded by Thranduil is on its way to sack the mountain for precious jewels and the orc army led by Azog is coming to meet both the elven and dwarven forces in battle. All of these oncoming enemies force our favorite hobbit and his friends to face the greatest challenges that they’ve ever been put up against.
If there’s one great thing about this movie (and the trilogy as a whole), it’s that the cast is just about perfect. Martin Freeman is great for both the serious and sillier aspects of Bilbo Baggins, and his take on the character seems very faithful to the source material. Ian McKellen is back once again as Gandalf, along with several other fan favorites from the original LOTR trilogy. One person who really impressed me in this movie in particular was Richard Artimage as Thorin, who we get to know quite a bit better in this installment. Luke Evans’ character, Bard, was also fleshed out more in this film, and he turned out to be one of my favorite characters in the series. Evangeline Lilly and Aidan Turner made the forbidden elf-dwarf romance between their characters more believable in this film than it was in the last, even if it does still seem like it was shoehorned into the story. Each cast member was a good representation of Tolkien’s classic characters, despite the fact that Jackson’s script deviated quite a bit from the source material.
It’s also undeniable that Jackson’s vision of Middle-Earth is absolutely breathtaking. From the giant statues outside the gates of the Erebor to the great walls that guard the city of Dale, there is a lot of eye candy in this movie. Many of the shots in this movie give the viewer a real feel for the size and vastness of the world, which is something that I’ve always appreciated about Jackson’s world. The special effects were impressive for the most part, as well. Smaug still looks great, as do the caverns of the Lonely Mountain. I was disappointed to see the 90s-quality CGI gold from the last film make a comeback here, but that doesn’t change the fact that the rest of the visuals in the film were fantastic.
Even with all of these impressive aspects of the movie, I have to admit that I didn’t feel very drawn into the story. This is a problem that I had with the last two chapters of the trilogy, as well. The pacing of the story is incredibly uneven. New characters and villains are introduced throughout the film without much of an introduction. There were parts of the movie where there was far too much happening within a short amount of time. One scene like this that stuck out to me was when we see the elf army marching on Erebor only to be stopped by a dwarf army who are subsequently interrupted by an army of orcs. There was just too much being thrown into the plot with no explanation.
There were other parts in the movie that I found unnecessary. The character Alfrid, played by Ryan Gage, provides some very childish comic relief to the movie. I found his character much more annoying than entertaining in a film that already has a surplus of dwarves, and every time he was on camera I was reminded how unnecessary it was to stretch Tolkien’s work into three movies. That brings me to another point: at 2 ½ hours, The Battle of Five Armies is incredibly long. There’s nothing wrong with making a long movie; the final LOTR movie was well over 3 hours. The illusion that a great filmmaker can cast, however, is to make a long film seem shorter than it really is. The story and characters should entice the viewer in such a way that even after the second hour of running time passes, we don’t want the trip to end. Jackson is usually able to do this very well, but here we were able to see the man behind the curtain. I was very fidgety throughout the last act of this movie, and in the film’s last few scenes, I was begging for it to end.
I think I’m just not a big fan of The Hobbit movies. I have several friends who have enjoyed the entire trilogy, but I’m afraid that they just didn’t pull me in like some of my favorite fantasy/sci-fi adventures can do. Having read the novel, I firmly believe that the entire story could have been told in one 2 ½ hour movie. The extra material thrown in made the films feel longer and made the story more confusing. Still, I found the acting and visuals very impressive, and although this isn’t Jackson’s best-directed film, I certainly could see glimpses of his genius in this final installment. If you enjoyed the other Hobbit movies, you should definitely go see The Battle of Five Armies. If not, this one might not be worth leaving your hole in the ground.