Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom
Age Restriction: 10-12PG V
Genre: Fantasy, Action
Runtime: 144 Minutes
Release date: 12 December 2014
Peter Jackson returns to Middle-Earth for one final time (unless the Tolkien estate allows him to make more films) for the concluding chapter in The Hobbit trilogy.
We last left Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves on the Lonely Mountain where the dragon Smaug (voiced and motion captured by Benedict Cumberbatch) flew off to Lake-town in an attempt to vanquish it. The Battle of the Five Armies begins almost immediately at this point, with the prologue being the film’s second-best action sequence.
We last left Gandalf (Ian McKellen) at Dol Guldur where he discovered that the evil Sauron (also voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) had been running the show all along and had gathered an army of orcs and goblins in an attempt to conquer the Lonely Mountain.
Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) has finally reclaimed the Lonely Mountain and the dwarves' lost treasure. However, like his father and grandfather before him, a sickness of greed plagues his mind as he desperately searches for the Arkenstone – the dwarves' most prized treasure. Thorin has become so paranoid and power hungry that he won’t let anyone into the mountain and refuses to pay the folks of Lake-town their fair due of gold. To make matters worse, the elves also want something from the treasure too, which Thorin absolutely refuses, as we all know the dwarves despise the elves. Because of this, the men and the elves band together and plan on going to war with the dwarves under the mountain.
On the other side of the horizon, Sauron’s orc and goblin army led by Azog the Defiler (motion captured and voiced by Manu Bennett) are also on their way to the Lonely Mountain to wage war on all who stand in their way. Hence: The Battle of the Armies which include the dwarves, the elves, the men, the orcs and the goblins.
The action sequences and set pieces in this film are amazing, with the actual Battle of the Five Armies being the best sequence in the film. The battle takes place for a long while, but it never becomes tedious as it shifts from army clashes to characters using strategic methods, and finally to one-on-one battles between characters like Thorin and Azog – which has been long-awaited since the first Hobbit – and Bolg (Lawrence Makoare) verses Legolas (Orlando Bloom).
The Battle of the Five Armies is The Hobbit trilogy’s most action-packed instalment yet which is good for those who felt that the first two films lacked action, but slightly disappointing to those who thoroughly enjoyed the first two instalments as The Battle of the Five Armies is slightly unbalanced. The film is so packed with a massive amount of action that the other elements such as adventure, character development, background stories, drama and the exploratory components are all lacking in this final instalment.
Despite this fault, The Battle of the Five Armies still manages to be four-star entertainment as the action was so innovative and unique that it somehow manages to compel audiences to the screen without any hesitation. The film’s story and premise continue to be captivating and entertaining thereby allowing The Battle of the Five Armies to be a worthy edition to the franchise.
However, it's not without its faults. Everything besides the battles and main storyline felt rushed with the Dol Guldur sub-plot- which was built up so nicely in the first two films - concluding abruptly, and leaving a plot hole. Even the Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Kili (Aidan Turner) love story sub-plot was way too rushed. So basically, The Battle of the Five Armies’ sub-plots are unsolved cases that should’ve concluded with more detail.
One thing that’s great about Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth films is the long running time, which allows Jackson to tell a large story while also focusing on the other elements: drama, character development, adventure etc. However, The Battle of the Five Armies has the shortest runtime of the entire franchise, clocking in at only 144 minutes with the credits running at almost 10 minutes. So there’s basically around two-hours and 15 minutes of footage. The short runtime is definitely a flaw as it really left me wanting more. In addition, the runtime is what basically contributed to the film’s unbalanced nature, as most elements that made these films so intriguing take a back seat because of time constraints.
Even when the climax concludes and we enter the aftermath of the Five Armies Battle; it jets by so swiftly that there’s not enough time for a proper emotional farewell. The film then enters the final conclusion which attempts to bridge The Hobbit trilogy with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Does it do a worthy job? Yes and no. The bridging of the two trilogies was good, but not great as the film once again rushes to get to the finish line, leaving audiences with something very brief instead of the detail we’re used to getting from Jackson.
Jackson once again proves to us why he’s the master of visual effects, as they are impressive to say the very least. The set design is mesmerising as usual as the film offers breathtaking landscapes which will continue to enthral audiences with eye-catching wonderment.
The entire cast continue to provide top-notch performances including the voice actors as Manu Bennett continues to bring fear into our hearts as the voice of the evil Azog the Defiler. Richard Armitage takes Thorin in a new direction as the character undergoes a transformation into a greedy and paranoid coward who will stop at nothing to wear the crown.
Despite the film’s lack of character development, Thorin, some dwarves, and Bilbo are the only characters that are developed properly, with the latter finally being brave and sure of himself.
I’d give the film’s 3D three out of five as it was pretty good with snowflakes popping out of the screen, however, it just can’t compare to Avatar’s impressive showcase.
Be sure to stay during the first song of the credits (The Last Goodbye) as it’s sung by Billy Boyd who played Pippin in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While this farewell song plays, there’s some concept art on display which looks really interesting so enjoy that little treat, plus the song is pretty good and will likely leave you teary-eyed.
All in all, The Battle of the Five Armies is a worthy edition to the franchise with it being the most action-packed chapter in The Hobbit trilogy. However, too much action renders the film slightly unbalanced as it lacks the other elements that made the first two chapters noteworthy.
The film’s uneven nature has in my opinion persuaded me to crown The Desolation of Smaug as the best film in The Hobbit trilogy.
If you thought that the last two chapters lacked action, then The Battle of the Five Armies might be your favourite instalment in the trilogy. But if you loved the balance of all the elements in the past two films especially adventure and exploratory, then The Battle of the Five Armies will still be enjoyable to you, however, it might be your least favourite chapter in the trilogy.
Check out the trailer below: