The Hobbit – Battle of the Five Armies is the third and final instalment of Peter Jackson’s over inflated adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit.
The story begins where the previous edition, A Desolation of Smaug, ended, with Smaug the dragon heading for Lake Town. He burns his way through the small fishing town in a toil of flame and ash laying waste to everything in his path, with only Bard the Bowman (played by Luke Evans) standing in his way. The opening scenes really do pack a punch and the narrative by Smaug (voiced brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch) provides a sinister overture to the chaos.
While Smaug terrorises the population of Lake Town, the dwarves have settled back into Eribor, the mountain fortress they had been trying to reach in the previous two films. But Thorin (Richard Armitage), who has reclaimed his throne, is being driven mad by the gold that sent his grandfather the same way at the beginning of ‘The Unexpected Journey’. Armitage plays the part well but is let down by the production team, who decided to slow down his dialogue whenever he gets moody (which is a lot). This gave the supposed dark moments of Thorin a silly and almost slapstick feel.
Bilbo has grown again since the last film, not in stature but in presence. He is no longer the whinging fool that left Bag End in the first movie. Bilbo’s new found confidence and guile sees him challenging Thorin’s authority as he spirals into madness, while also holding meetings with the elf king Thranduil (Lee Pace), Gandalf (Ian Mckellen) and Bard all in order to stop war from breaking out between the three factions. Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo Baggins, steals the show with his magnificent performance, providing excellent comedic deliveries and heart wrenching drama amid the chaos of the ensuing war, and providing a grounded presence amid the often farcical furore that Peter Jackson has created in this movie.
The battle itself wasn’t too bad. It certainly isn’t in the same league as the final Lord of The Rings or Troy, but it did enough to keep me interested – just about. It appears Jackson just can’t help himself when it comes to detracting from Tolkien’s texts. As an avid fan of the books, I laughed when I saw some of the creations Jackson had decided to whimsically include, from a dwarf lord riding a giant pig into battle, Thorin and his men scaling a mountain a-top giant goats, to giant earth guzzling worms (that would be a fitting addition to the Men in Black franchise, but had no place in this movie) leaping out of a hill. It all got a little ridiculous towards the end, which resulted to me switching off after about half an hour of the battle. Jackson isn’t shy of putting his own stamp on Tolkien’s work, but true fans of the book have had issues since the first instalment, not least with the main protagonist of the films, Asog The Defiler, a fictional incarnation of an Orc that died long before the Hobbit era came to pass.
Another aspect of the film that irritated me was the glossy sheen to every scene and character. This is due to the film being shot at 48 frames per second – a supposed step forward in cinematography. However, it did nothing for me. Characters had a golden and unrealistic sheen, not too dissimilar to Shirley Eaton’s golden corps in Goldfinger, which was out of place when you think the majority of the film is staged in a colossal and gritty battle. CGI special effects are an integral part of this film, providing scale that couldn’t be achieved by sheer manpower, but that isn’t always a good thing. The battle of the five armies has no feeling of reality, and you can clearly see that key characters are completely computer generated, which detaches you instantly from said characters. For example Dane (voiced by Billy Connolly) is unidentifiable unless you are familiar with his voice. His fat ginger CGI reincarnation does little to add to the film, except to channel some dwarf venom towards the elves with the use of unnecessary profanity and frankly boring dialogue.
This film showed a lot of promise in the opening 15 minutes, but went downhill from there. It is a not so fond farewell to a middle earth adventure that could have been so much more. If you can look past the glossy sheen of everyone and everything in this movie, and forget that many of the characters that are key to The Hobbit film franchise are completely fictional and do not appear in the book, then you may like this movie. However, fans who are familiar with Tolkien’s classic may find themselves clock watching and going for a quick nap half way through as Jackson’s imagination is spewed onto the screen.
Rating 2.5 / 5
See a trailer for The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies here.