Title: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
Released: Dec 2014 (US & UK)
There’s a degree of dissatisfaction surrounding The Hobbit trilogy, but following the outstanding success of The Lord of the Rings, it was inevitable. Peter Jackson’s work will—for better or worse—often be compared to his first Tolkien adaptations and many will view The Lord of the Rings as the peak of his career (which is of course not a bad thing). However, for all the magic The Hobbit lacks when viewed alongside its pre-made follow-up, it’s still a well constructed, enjoyable and engrossing trilogy and The Battle of the Five Armies—while at times bloated and strained—is a strong finale that satisfyingly completes both the trilogy and Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth saga. Here are some things I liked and others I wasn’t too keen on.
Warning! Spoilers below.
I liked how the film delved deeper into Thorin’s psyche. Richard Armitage was completely captivating and his performance ever-impressive. The actor’s calibre is on prime display and I was ultimately very pleased with how he portrayed Thorin.
I liked the pace, which was predominantly on point. The film felt neither too long nor too short and the battles were balanced well with the quieter, more dialogue-driven sequences. Considering the Battle of the Five Armies takes place in a single chapter in Tolkien’s book—despite some degree of boat—I generally found it to be well adapted.
I liked Tauriel. Original characters in adapted work don’t often sit too well with audiences, particularly fans of the source material, but I felt Tauriel was well implemented. I enjoyed Evangeline Lilly’s performance and Tauriel as a character; though I feel she should have been killed off to tie up loose ends.
I liked the connections to The Lord of the Rings. I know this is an aspect many are disgruntled with, but I thought the nods were a nice touch. Sure enough, Thranduil urging Legolas to seek out Strider did come across as rather forced (and doesn’t make much sense), but Sauron’s reveal and Saruman’s dialogue about pursuing him, along with the lead-in sequence to The Lord of the Rings at the very end were welcome additions. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are connected and I’m glad Peter Jackson and his writing team made an effort to allow The Hobbit to seamlessly lead into it’s follow-up.
I liked Billy Boyd’s The Last Goodbye. It was a very touching piece to close the trilogy with. It evokes all the wondrous journeys through Middle Earth and fills the listener with a bittersweet nostalgia. I didn’t think they would be able to match Annie Lennox’s Into the West, but it seems inviting Boyd back did the trick.
I wasn’t too keen on how certain characters got conveniently lost at times. After Fili and Kili’s demise, with Thorin was Bilbo and Dwalin. Thorin engages in combat with Azog, Bilbo is knocked unconscious and Dwalin is dispatching enemies, though Dwalin disappears for what appears to be a rather lengthy period of time. The Eagles join the fray, Bilbo eventually awakens from his dizzied state and both Azog and Thorin die in combat — just what is Dwalin doing during this? He was practically beside Thorin, but handily disappears so Thorin can die, then reappears later alongside all of the remaining Dwarves as they bid Thorin farewell.
I wasn’t too keen on some of the special effects. In general, I feel Weta continue to do a stellar job on The Hobbit, but some sequences looked rather odd. The lips on Dain came across as particularly artificial and Legolas running up falling rubble—as fantastical as it may sound on paper—was just rather silly and looked very awkward on film. Also, though I enjoyed Azog as a villain, he was nowhere near as authentic and menacing as someone like Lurtz from The Lord of the Rings.
I wasn’t too keen on the sound editing. There seemed to be somewhat of an over-reliance on Shore’s score. During the final act—specifically Thorin vs. Azog—the music faded out for a short period as the battle intensified and the sounds all became diegetic, with the sound of Azog’s mace crashing into the ice building the atmosphere tenfold. What is sometimes lost in large-scale productions is a sort of ‘fog of war’ perspective. Swooping overheads of exaggerated armies pumped with orchestral greatness are all well and good, but sometimes it is far more thrilling to be in the heat of a single battle — no interruptions, no music, just combatant vs. combatant. I would have like to see a larger focus on the sound and the vehemence of a showdown; that short moment in Thorin and Azog’s confrontation was one of my favourite sequences.
At the end of the day, Peter Jackson is keen to label himself an ‘entertainer’ and The Hobbit trilogy definitely delivers in that respect. It lacks the emotional pull and investment of The Lord of the Rings, but still has a certain charm to it. However, I do believe the book would have been better adapted as just two films. As a whole, the trilogy did feel as though it was dragging at times and the overarching story could have been more tightly woven. Nevertheless, the Hobbit trilogy was an enchanting, wholly enjoyable journey and The Battle of the Five Armies is a fine farewell to Middle Earth.