As the final film in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, and what is most likely his last jaunt into the world of Middle Earth, I really, really wanted to love this film when I went to see it on Friday night. Both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have generally been exempt from my usual disdain for book to film adaptations (despite being based on some of my favourite books) and contrary to popular opinion amongst many die-hard Tolkien fans, I have actually enjoyed Peter Jackson’s extending of The Hobbit story – a few hundred page book – into a great epic of the proportion of The Lord of the Rings. Therefore I was really looking forward to seeing The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies, and whilst I did enjoy it, and it is by no means a bad film, I was in some ways a little disappointed.
But let’s start with the good stuff! This film definitely upped the ante in terms of pace and action! Although the film was a good two hours and twenty minutes (which I guess is short in comparison to the others!) it didn’t feel that long, as there was never a dull moment, and I don’t remember thinking at any point ‘I wish they would just stop talking and do something’ as I will admit I occasionally do watching The Lord of the Rings.
The scale of things was also upped, with the focus pulling back from one small hobbit and his dwarf companions to encompass, as the title suggests, five armies, most of the races of Middle Earth and a battle of epic proportions. And as viewers have come to expect, the special effects were impressive, and the hugeness of some of the battle scenes was positively mind-blowing.
However, despite this epicness, the parts I found the best were smaller moments between characters. For example, the film opens where The Desolation of Smaug left off, with Smaug attacking Laketown, and I loved Bard and his son’s stand against the dragon. I liked the interaction between Bard and Smaug, and I thought the way Bard ends up killing him (no spoilers!) was pretty cool, particularly the way it showed the level of trust between Bard and his son when faced with potential death.
Meanwhile amongst the gold hoards of Erebor, I really enjoyed seeing the change in Thorin’s character, and his descent into madness. As his dragon-sickness worsens, he becomes more and more unreasonable and unrecognisable, his voice at times coming to echo Smaug’s (which I thought was a nice touch!). And as for those small character moments I was talking about, there was a particularly nice one between Thorin and Bilbo early on where for a second the sickness and greed seem to lift from Thorin. One thing I have always particularly liked about Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit is the casting, and Richard Armitage’s tortured Thorin and Martin Freeman’s lovable ‘everyman’ Bilbo Baggins were perfect here, with Bilbo’s lack of greed and unselfishness briefly breaking through Thorin’s madness.
The scene where Bard talks to Thorin through the wall of Erebor and tries to reason with him in the throes of his madness was also a great scene, with the outcome of it determining whether there will be peace or war. And as you’ll know from the trailer (or I guess the title), Thorin in his madness, will ‘have war’.
Speaking of war, the film also had some fantastic fight scenes, and whilst the huge battles were good, it was some of the smaller, one on one fights which seemed to have higher personal stakes for our main characters that were the most interesting to me. It was particularly good to finally see The White Council in action, with Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman going to Gandalf’s rescue in Dol Goldur, and putting up a pretty impressive fight against the returned Sauron, and those who will later become the Nazgul of The Lord of the Rings.
However, my fight highlight of the film was definitely Thorin vs. Azog at the top of an icy waterfall, although there was also a pretty noteworthy one between Legolas and Bolg, happening alongside it.
But this is also where the film fell down a bit in my opinion. Some of the action got a little too ridiculous for me at times! I know this is fantasy, and so a suspension of belief is obviously required, but some of the action was so convoluted that it became almost comical. At one point Legolas actually ran up falling bricks. I know he’s an elf, and he’s got moves, but actually defying the law of gravity was just a step too far for me!
However, I think my main problem with the film was that so much was happening, and on such a grand scale, that it didn’t seem like we spent too much time with any one character. Bilbo, the title character, seemed to become a secondary character in his own film, and was in fact unconscious for most of the long-awaited finale scene, and only three of the thirteen dwarves who we’ve come to know and love in the past two instalments had any decent amount of screen time, or in fact, anything at all to do.
And then there’s that love triangle. And how I hate love triangles! Whilst The Desolation of Smaug has now become my favourite film in The Hobbit trilogy, there was one huge problem with it for me, and that was the weird dwarf-elf love triangle it set up between Tauriel, Legolas and Kili. I loved that Peter Jackson had decided to invent a cool female character to make up for the lack in Tolkien’s original text, but why create them just to use them in a terrible, and incredibly unconvincing love triangle? Couldn’t Tauriel have just been a random kick-ass lady elf? Why does ‘female character in fantasy’ have to mean romance? And how much time had Tauriel and Kili actually spent together in which to fall in love? Five minutes? Thankfully this element was toned down from the slightly cringey, glowy healing scene of The Desolation of Smaug in The Battle of the Five Armies, but it still existed, and I just wasn’t a fan!
However, despite these few little quibbles, I did enjoy the film. Whilst the epic scale tended to lose sight of individuals at times, the final scenes were suitably emotional for the last of Peter Jackson’s six-film journey through Middle Earth. Throughout the film, and throughout the entire series, the characters have been played to a fault, from Bilbo, to Thorin, Bard, Thranduil, Tauriel (love triangle aside), the dwarves, and of course Legolas and Gandalf. I would perhaps have liked to have seen a bit of a neater ending for some of the characters whose fates we don’t see in The Lord of the Rings, but Bilbo’s return to his quiet life in the Shire having gone there and back again paved the way nicely for what The Lord of the Rings fans know is to come.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Yes, I’ve suddenly decided I’m allowed to use decimals in my ratings!)