HAPPY NEW YEAR!
The Geek ventured back to Middle Earth for the last time. Does the final instalment live up to expectations? The answer is a simple yes. In fact, it’s the best film in The Hobbit Trilogy and loved every minute of it.
“One day I’ll remember. Remember everything that happened: the good, the bad, those who survived… and those that did not.” – Bilbo Baggins
In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the Dwarves led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) are forced into a battle between the human kind led by Bard (Luke Evans) and the Elves led by Thranduil (Lee Pace) for the treasure in the mountain. Little did they know, The Necromancer’s identity (Benedict Cumberbatch) is finally revealed, rising in power and an Orc army is heading their way to destroy everything in Middle Earth.
In all honesty I actually scrapped my original review for this film, hence why this review was delayed (amongst other things like Christmas/catching the flu). It’s not because I thought it wasn’t good enough or how I didn’t go into enough depth about the themes from the film like comparing Thorin’s greed and compulsion to the treasure to the one ring for example. I wanted to take my review in a slightly different direction, albeit a personal one.
To say Battle of the Five Armies is “the worse film out of the entire Hobbit trilogy” as I’ve read from online reviews is so far off the mark. Whist I understand the criticisms surrounding the trilogy, on this occasion I have to disagree with all of them. If it wasn’t clear from the opening statement, I immensely loved The Battle of the Five Armies and there are so many appealing qualities about it that make it the best in The Hobbit trilogy.
Firstly it’s the shortest film in the entire Middle Earth saga. It’s seems to be common criticism to say that The Hobbit runs too long for a film based off a short book. However, you can’t use that argument here – it wastes no time and jumps into the action with Smaug spectacularly burning the city of Dale. Could the scene be placed at the end of The Desolation of Smaug – yes but it works better in The Battle of the Five Armies where the stakes are raised again in dramatic conclusion. A few elements of greed and no common sense, the film does indeed live up to its title…and there is indeed a great battle.
The battle was everything I wanted – milked. If you have read the book, the battle lasted a few pages. It was over before you knew it. Peter Jackson visually delivers with some of the best and spectacular action scenes you will see this year with the best moment coming from the battle at Dol Guldur, involving Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving) Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman (Christopher Lee) vs. the Necromancer (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the Nine. It was epic, reminding how cool the context is in relation to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I seriously hope there’s more of this scene in the extended edition because if there’s one criticism about The Battle of the Five Armies is that you wished certain moments would go on for longer! The whole film experience can be brief.
Another positive is that The Battle of the Five Armies has a straightforward ending so don’t expect Return of the King style multiple endings. In fact, the ending is more reflective and perfectly fitting that will evoke great memories of the entire saga. In my case, I loved it so much that I immediately wanted to watch Fellowship of the Ring to continue the journey.
Does The Battle of the Five Armies justify the decision to split a short book into three films – yes. There are things in the book that needed to be addressed such as Gandalf disappearing halfway through the book. It would have been a missed opportunity if Gandalf’s time away from the company weren’t explored. On the flip side there were things left out, cut short or unresolved such as the Arkenstone’s final resting place, hence why I’m looking forward to the extended edition to see if these gaps will be filled.
Even I will admit, that these films are not perfect but I respect the creative choice because to me it didn’t impact or destroy my love or interest. The Hobbit will always remain a children’s book and in no way possible can be compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy – different time, different adventure and different story weight and context – something people easily forget and I’m certainly not going to bash a film purely based on the fact “it has too much CG.” I’m all about the story and characters, something I’ve felt Jackson has attempted to tackle in his film adaptation where the book sometimes lacks. Having re-watched An Unexpected Journey very recently (a film very faithful to the book), if the film was two as originally planned, a lot of things would have been butchered – trust me.
Because of the film length, the character interactions are more on point and focussed. Cementing these elements together are Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellen, both fantastic in their roles. While Thorin (played by the outstanding Richard Armitage) and Thranduil (Lee Pace) were consumed by greed and their own self-interest, Bilbo and Gandalf were the common sense double act and heartbeat of the film. Peter Jackson captures that emotional weight that is ever present in the last third of the book with the death of certain characters. Their sacrifice in the battle being a reminder of their choices and responsibility and in the case of Thorin, his mistakes.
“Go back to your armchair, Master Baggins. And your books. Plant your tree. If everybody valued home like you did, the world would be a merry place.” – Thorin Oakenshield
It’s funny how I look back at both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and how these films have represented fourteen years of my cinema life. It’s a long time to be invested in a movie saga which has defined my growing up into adulthood. Only the impact of the original Star Wars trilogy can attest to the fame and interest that The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit has created.
Every Christmas like clockwork, I get to lose and immerse myself in a fantasy adventure of epic proportions. I get to see the everyday heroes such as Bilbo, Frodo and Sam – characters that I’ve only read in the books leap from the page onto the big screen, showcasing their bravery and courage. I get to see the visual and picturesque landscapes like Rivendell and the Shire, the epic battles between good vs. evil and the constant reminder of friendship and hope, epitomised so beautifully by these films. It’s a celebration of the human spirit, triumphing against the odds to achieve the impossible. The ending of The Battle of the Five Armies perfectly ties both trilogies together. The Hobbit may not have reached the epic and unquestionably high standards from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but after The Battle of the Five Armies, The Hobbit is a worthy addition to the franchise, something no naysayer or harsh critic can take away. The magic is still there for me and the stories of Middle Earth have meant so much. You probably have to forgive me for saying that watching all six films over the years have been the happiest days I’ve experienced as a cinemagoer. As the end credits rolled on The Battle of the Five Armies, I did found myself having a tear in my eye. Was it tears of sadness? Most likely – but I do believe it will be a long time before anything like this can capture the imagination again.
If this is indeed the last time that Middle Earth is on the big screen, then it has been a blast, every single one of them – faults and all. I can’t wait to revisit them all on blu-ray (six films – extended edition boxset collection please) and if you are a fan, The Battle of the Five Armies is an entertaining reward for your patience.
Peter Jackson, cast and crew – thank you for the brilliant memories.