Throughout the opening minutes of Peter Jackson’s final installment of his prequel to the Middle Earth saga, the prevailing theme of war reigned supreme as the dreaded dragon Smaug, voiced by Golden Globe nominee Benedict Cumberbatch, breathed fiery fury upon quaint little Lake Town. The townsfolk survived thanks to Bard the Bowman, played by Luke Evans, but with their homes gone, they look to the Lonely Mountain for salvation, but there is a slight problem.
With Smaug out of the picture, literally he is only in the film for at least 10 minutes, the company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage, have succeeded in reclaiming what is rightfully theirs and more; the vast fortune of gold that Smaug was hoarding for centuries have a particularly unflattering effect on Thorin and he is determined to hold on to his seemingly endless wealth like a politician who wants to hide his assets from the IRS. When Bard and the citizens of Lake Town come calling for their share of the treasure that Thorin promised them in the last movie, Thorin will not relinquish what is owed to the people.
Thandruil, played by Lee Pace, brings an army of elves to the doorstep of Erebor because Thorin’s new fortune also holds an elvish treasure of interest to him and even that doesn’t sway Thorin to let the people have what is rightfully theirs and the next thing everyone knows, all hell breaks loose as armies of men, elves, dwarves are pitted against two vast armies of orcs, and Bilbo Baggins, played by Martin Freeman, is in the eye of the storm. The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies is a feature that is appreciative because it offers fans of the J.R.R. Tolkien literary series and the cinematic adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, one last look and huzzah at the Middle Earth legend.
The film itself is something of a rushed mess to be honest. It was paced nicely and it was decent in trying to tie the Hobbit franchise to the Lord of the Rings saga, its central function, but it was unfair and unbalanced in its method of trying to showcase their characters, it left too many unanswered questions and there was nothing that surprised me about this in any way, which is disappointing because Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy is a cinematic venture that I hold in the highest esteem while The Hobbit trilogy is basically the Star Wars prequels all over again; I already know how its going to turn out so what happened before is fascinating to look at but nothing to get overly enthusiastic about.
The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies has a good cast of actors and actresses in it, I will not deny that. Armitage, Freeman, Evans, Pace, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Ian McKellan, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lily, Manu Bennett, Aiden Turner and Ryan Gage, are all decent with the material given to them. The problem is that it is as if Jackson and his screenwriting team of Phillipa Boyens, Fran Walsh and Guillermo Del Toro were in such a rush to wrap this franchise up that they didn’t really think about how to naturally allow these characters to finish their work in the story. When my mother and I saw this, I told her that this film and The Desolation of Smaug were supposed to be one movie and they decided to split them; I think the consequences for splitting the series were seen here.
I get that this is supposed to be Bilbo’s story, he is recalling the entire thing from memory and the film follows him, but at the expense of the rest of the characters? That’s a no no. The spellcasters vs. the necromancer, Smaug’s attack on Lake Town, Killi and Tauriel’s “relationship” is all pushed aside for this grand battle of the five armies, which isn’t all that impressive-if you’ve seen one Peter Jackson epic Middle Earth battle (and I’m not alone in saying that we have) you’ve seen them all-and the film just leaves so many questions unanswered at the end, it is terribly disappointing.
The real heroes of The Battle of the Five Armies have to be Jabez Olssen and his editing, Andrew Lesnie and his cinematography, Simon Bright and Andy McLaren’s art direction, the makeup team and the visual effects team. The production team leaders really poured a lot of effort into the extensive final battle sequence and it was nice to look at, even though it wasn’t the best battle sequence of the entire Middle Earth franchise.
The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies isn’t exactly an enjoyable movie, but it is worth appreciating if you are interested in seeing how everything is tied together, sort of. It gives fans, like myself, one last look at the beautiful and dangerous realm of Middle Earth and that is enough reason to venture and see it.