It’s the end of an era. *Sniff, sniff.*
I can’t believe that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will be the last new Middle Earth film I’ll ever see. Sure, I’ll rewatch them (probably numerous times) on DVD, but I’ll never feel that same rush of awe as I did seeing them the first time, nor the nervous anticipation. I felt collected when I first entered the cinema and found my seat, but half an hour in I felt a sudden, overwhelming panic about how NOT READY I was for shizz to go down, and for this to be the final part… and for all the feels about to descend…!
As the film ended and the credits began to roll to the beautiful melancholy song The Last Goodbye by Billy Boyd (mirroring his previous haunting song Edge of Night from Return of the King) my friend and I, as well as the other people in the cinema, all sat in complete silence for a good 3 minutes as if suspended in the moment, awed, with our hearts just a tad broken, not quite ready to let go of the hobbits dwarves and elves that had been our companions and friends for so many years.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), riddle solver, barrel rider and professional burglar has come a long way since the Shire. With a little help from his friends and a magic ring he has made his way to the Lonely Mountain to help his dwarvish friends reclaim the homeland that was stolen from them by the dragon Smaug. But just when Bilbo thinks his adventure is almost over, a new host of problems present themselves. Thorin (Richard Armitage), leader of Bilbo’s company and king under the mountain is acting strangely, caught in a selfish lust and greed for gold he is mistreating and accusing his closest friends of betraying him. Meanwhile armies gather outside their gates, armies of humans and elves determined to right old wrongs that were done to them to quench their revenge. But when a new far worse enemy, an army or orcs arrives, will the people of Middle-earth be able to put aside their century old bickering to band together and defeat a far worse evil?
From the moment The Battle of the Five Armies starts (whether you’re seeing it in 2D or 3D) the eyes are bombarded with beautiful scenery, magnificently vivid sets and dramatic sweeping camera shots that will take your breath away. Of course, this is what we’ve come to expect from Peter Jackson’s blockbuster films, so how did the actual story and entertainment factor stand up?
Well, I have to say the final Hobbit installment turned out to be my favourite of the three, which is surprising as I was originally expecting it to be the worst! Why? Because having read the book I was aware of how little material was left to fill a two and a half hour movie and was worried about how it would be padded out. Pacing was a big issue for me in both the previous installments but it seems that Jackson has finally got it right.
Unlike the previous films, The Battle of the Five Armies kept my attention all the way through. Beginning where The Desolation of Smaug left off, the film begins with the dragon Smaug descending on Lake-town and viewers are rewarded with adrenaline filled, heart-wrenching scenes where innocents are slaughtered and the town goes up in horrific, mesmerizing flames. It’s an impressive way to start a movie, and gives you the feeling of being chucked right into the middle of the action. After this there is a lull where we switch back to Bilbo and company, and events slowly build from there, growing in intensity. The movie is composed mainly of battle scenes, whether strategizing, worrying about what is to come or the actual fighting itself and this is an area where I always feel the Middle-Earth movies shine with their inventive fight scenes that mix tension with awe and comedy (I mean, who could forget the epic Legolas skateboard scene from The Two Towers?) BUT, most importantly, the action and exposition is never at the expense of emotional investment or the characters. There was a lot of heartbreak and angst, and oh how I cried…repeatedly!
There are a lot of character moments that stand out and make this film great, the conversation between Bilbo and Thorin about an acorn and the hope of returning home, the moments between Bard and his children, not to mention the emotionally powered scenes Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) has with Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Kili (Aidan Turner), and Thranduil (Lee Pace). (Aka, just ALL THE TAURIEL OKAY. SHE IS AN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED CHARACTER.) There were also some great character arcs such as Thorin’s decent from fearless warrior into madness from greed and back again as well as his standoff with his nemesis, Legolas’s fractured relationship with his father and his fight for independence, and of course, Bilbo’s continued development from small town Hobbit to brave and loyal hero. Add it all together and you’ve got some satisfying character development that I felt the other installments were lacking!
Now, I know a lot of people were upset with the changes from the book (particularly one certain aspect related to Fili and Kili), and in all honestly it’s been a while since I read the novel so I can’t say I have a perfect memory of the original anyway, but I didn’t feel the changes were to the detriment of the story this time because the heart of the tale was in the right place. Two positive changes for me for instance, was increasing the role Bard in the battle because firstly yummy guy candy, but secondly I always thought he was a brilliant character so it was great to see more of him. It also added to the tension of the battle because he became another character to worry about. Additionally, the inclusion of Tauriel’s character really worked for me. Not only does she fulfill the minimal female actress quota for the film, but the crescendo of the romance element of her storyline was great. I feel with these kind of epic stories you need an epic romance to heighten the stakes, making you root for the characters adding to the emotional investment.
There were only a couple of niggles that bothered me about The Battle of the Five Armies. One was the inclusion of the showdown with Smaug. I’m a little torn with this one because using it made a great, dramatic opening scene but I think it would have been better if this had happened in the second film because it kind of just felt like it had been stuck in there quickly at the start of the movie because they needed to get it out of the way, and because of that it felt quite anticlimactic for him to be dealt with so quickly. The second thing that bothered me was the annoying scenes with Alfrid (Ryan Gage) a greedy resident of Lake-town. He was the running punch line throughout the movie and while I get that Jackson probably wanted a way to add in some funnies between big scenes, his inclusion kind of cheapened the whole thing and felt lazy to me!
While The Hobbit films didn’t even get close to my love for the Lord of the Rings ones, this tale has ended on a high for me both story-wise and emotionally. The Hobbit will tie in well with the original films, adding depth and extra knowledge that will make Tolkien’s story feel all the more satisfying. It sounds crazy, but Middle-earth and the people within it really do feel like home because I’ve known them so long, and this last installment felt like saying goodbye to old and cherished friends. 🙂
Did you see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies? How did you think it compared with the previous two films? Were you upset by any of the changes? I would love to talk Middle-earth in the comments!
CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery): 4/5
FANGIRL FACTOR: 5/5