The Battle of the Five Armies starring Martin Freeman
Warning: Major Spoilers!
The Final End. Peter Jackson signs off his adaptation of the middle-earth fantasy world with the third and final Hobbit film. I loved The Desolation of Smaug (particularly Benedict Cumberbatch’s winning performance as the dragon Smaug) so my hopes were high that this film would continue the standard.
For the first 15 mins, this hope was effortlessly sustained as Jackson delivered one of the best opening sequences in any of his films. Smaug’s attack on Laketown was everything i’d hoped, with a rousing musical score from Howard Shore setting the adrenaline pumping nicely as Smaug burns the town to the ground as part of the dwarf company and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) attempt to escape. The only problem with the sequence was that it had to end. It ended in dramatic fashion as Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) escaped the town prison and confronted Smaug, leading to the dragon’s death as Bard shot him down with a black arrow. Smaug remains the best thing in this trilogy and he deserved more than a hour’s screen time in three films worth of story.
The film loses something after Smaug’s death which it struggles to reclaim until well into the eponymous Battle of the Five Armies (which are The Dwarves, The Elves, the Men of Lake-town, the Orc hordes and the Eagles for anyone who is interested). The only other sequence of note in the first hour is the White Council (Saruman, Elrond and Galadriel) saving Gandalf and battling Sauron and his Ring-Wraiths at Dol Goldur, which was a suitably cool moment bridging the two trilogies together. The film’s secondary focus falls on two storylines; Thorin (Richard Armitage) being corrupted by the ‘dragon sickness’ of Smaug’s hoard of gold and the continuing love story between Tauriel and Kili (with Legolas still making up the inevitable love triangle). One of the problems (which has been the case in the whole Hobbit trilogy) is you just don’t care about most of the dwarves (especially as characters like Tauriel and Bard got most of the character development). Personally, while i like Thorin, Kili, Bifur (James Nesbitt), Balin (the old wise one) and Bombur (the fat comic relief one), i couldn’t really care if the other dwarves lived or died.
Once the battle eventually starts the film gathers pace again, but the battle itself, while equalling those in Return of the King, still can’t quite match Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers in terms of spectacle. Wisely it instead focuses on the important characters i.e. Bilbo, Thorin, Kili, Tauriel, Legolas and Bard. One thing the Hobbit has done better than the original trilogy is its villainous cast. I felt far more hatred for Smaug, Azog and Bolg than i ever did for Gollum, Saruman or Sauron in the Lord of the Rings. This led to the final duels having a lot more tension in them as Kili, Tauriel and Legolas faced down Bolg while Thorin battled his nemesis Azog. The Legolas-Bolg fight was particularly enthralling even if you knew how it would end. Indeed the entire Hobbit trilogy probably worked a lot better for people who hadn’t read the book or seen the LOTR trilogy, as knowing which characters survived and which didn’t lessened any suprise factor.
Overall, a good film with some stunning battle scenes and heart-wrenching character deaths, but the film falls short of the high standard of both its predecessor and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If nothing else, at least it had less f***ing endings than Return of the King!
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sorry for the long absense, university work got on top of me a bit. I am going to scale back my reviews to a more manageable 1 or 2 articles per week (though i may publish more on holidays or during weeks when i don’t have that much to do – thank you for your patience).