The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom
Release Date: December 17, 2014
In what I like to call a “see it while you still can” style of reviewing movies before they leave theaters, I finally got around to catching Peter Jackson‘s final film in the The Hobbit trilogy: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
And honestly, I can say that if you loved the Lord of the Rings movies of Jackson’s, then you might indeed wanna catch this before it leaves theaters. And you need not worry if you skipped the second movie in the trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, or even the first movie, An Unexpected Journey, at this point. But I would never recommend a fan of the original book to ever see this particular film. The first two…sure…but this one, not so much. It’s complicated. Let me explain.
In this final film, Jackson seemingly runs out of tricks to stretch what arguably could have been done in a two-part film (as was the plan, once upon a time) into a seemingly obvious unnecessary third movie. All the momentum of Smaug and Journey hit a brick wall in the first 30 minutes of Five Armies. The remaining two and a half hours of film are more dedicated to serving the role of prologue to Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films rather than to finish the story of Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves. The story of Thorin becomes itself a subplot compared to the struggles of Legolas and Gandalf.
The Battle of the Five Armies itself seems like Jackson was more interested in pushing the limits of how many CGI bad guys can we summon onto a seemingly endless landscape that stretches and grow to accommodate everyone as they show up. Land that didn’t seem to exist before. So again, if you liked Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies then this film is perfect for you because it highlights big giant army battles and conveniently lends itself to being a prequel for specific characters who were big in Frodo’s adventures rather than Bilbo’s. In that regard, The Battle of the Five Armies is awesome.
Now as to why I would never recommend it to a fan of the book, it’s less to do with liberties taken with characters and the story and quite simply summed up as this: the storytelling in the book has a better ending, more cohesion, and more emotion than this final movie (despite the desperate attempts to try to add emotion that come off at best as awkward and odd).
For example, we all remember in The Two Towers, the climactic battle at Helm’s Deep. The rain falling on the faces of the men and seeing the desperation in their eyes. The tension was palpable. Real. You will get that in a couple of moments with Five Armies, thanks in part to the spectacular Evangeline Lilly who I think got the short part of the stick. Her Tauriel was a hot point of nerd/geek rage as she was written solely for this film trilogy and didn’t exist in the source material in any way but she ultimately commits to the role and ends up being the most authentic, emotionally engaged portrayals in all of The Battle of the Five Armies.
Otherwise, everything seems either forced or just out of place in some way. And I think it was hard to get emotionally involved with the throngs of CGI armies wading into each other. It lacked that “real” that was so brilliant about Jackson’s first trilogy. So, I recommend the book over the film if you want to get a truly rewarding third act to Bilbo’s story and the story of Thorin Oakenshield.
And with that, we end our time in Jackson’s Middle Earth. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to pull off what The Lord of the Rings trilogy was again for a couple of generations. It was by far an amazing story and some of the best films ever made. As such, I’m sad to see it all coming to an end but I am grateful to Peter Jackson for his vision and even for The Hobbit trilogy. Despite my thinking that had the Hobbit movies come before the Lord of the Rings movies, no studio would have made The Fellowship of the Ring. That being said, my hope is that a spark was lit for a whole new generation to read Tolkien’s The Hobbit and to find out more about the curious creatures.
In either case, I recommend seeing The Battle of the Five Armies in theaters while you can. The scope and grand vision that I think Jackson was hoping to achieve here will be all but lost entirely on the smaller screens of the world. The storytelling fall to the wayside a bit, but it’s worth a matinee price if you can still catch it. After all, who doesn’t wanna see Middle Earth on the big screen…one last time.