Movie Review: “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” – Epic Conclusion

Written by Jesse Gelinas December 25, 2014

Azog commands his Orc army

Thirteen years, six movies, and over 1000 minutes of film, and we have finally reached the end of Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth saga. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” marks the final installment in the beloved franchise that brought Tolkien’s fantasy realm to the big screen over a decade ago. The journey has been long, sometimes unnecessarily so, but many of us have been watching this epic saga unfold for a large chunk of our lives. “The Hobbit’s” closing film is an action-packed short (clocking in at just under 2.5 hours) compared to its predecessors, but it also might be the best of the second trilogy.

*SPOILERS*

“Battle of the Five Armies” begins with Smaug the Dragon’s destruction of Laketown. After being awoken by Bilbo and aggravated by the Dwarves, he sets his sights on the settlement of Men nearby and begins his fiery rampage. Once the Dragon threat is dealt with, armies from all around converge on the Lonely Mountain in search of the treasure within. Unwilling to give up what he sees as his birthright, Thorin Oakenshield incites war between his company of Dwarves, and the Men and Elves surrounding his reclaimed kingdom. Adding to this, Azog the Defiler is on his way with an army of Orcs and beasts to wipe out Thorin’s line once and for all. Little Hobbit Bilbo Baggins can only sit by and watch as “The Battle of the Five Armies” unfolds before his eyes.

“This was the last move in a master plan. A plan long in the making.”

“The Battle of the Five Armies” suffers from most of the same drawbacks as the previous two Hobbit films. First and foremost, CGI. Jackson has really just lost whatever brilliant charm he had with “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. In those films, entire battles could be shown with actors in beautiful (sometimes horrifying) makeup and costumes. Orcs were fearsome and scary and REAL. In this new trilogy, every single enemy, be it Orc, Goblin, or Warg, is completely CGI. And sadly, the CGI isn’t even state of the art at times. This becomes increasingly distracting as the films go on. Azog is especially disappointing as he has a large role and many closeups. Practical effects worked fine for “The Lord of the Rings;” there is no reason it had to be any different for “The Hobbit.”

Bard meets the Elf armyWhile the first two installments can feel a bit overlong and ‘padded,’ “The Battle of the Five Armies” moves along quite well and clocks in as the shortest of all six films. The action is intense, creative, and exciting most of the time, and the battle itself does have that epic feel that we first experienced at Helm’s Deep all those years ago. Smaug’s attack on Laketown is an early high point for the film, as his fiery death rains down from the sky and helps carry the momentum over from the second film. I do have a couple lore-related issues with how Smaug is dealt with, but it’s mostly nerdy nitpicking so I’ll let it slide.

“You are really just a little fellow in a wide world.”

Where the film truly shines is in its cast. Every role was perfectly cast at the start of this trilogy and by now we’re as comfortable with the characters as the actors themselves. Martin Freeman is a wonderful Bilbo, taking cues from Ian Holm’s performance and adding his own signature vulnerability and charm. Richard Armitage is given much room to shine as the unstable Thorin, smitten with “dragon sickness.” Lee Pace and and Evangeline Lily both deliver noteworthy turns as the film’s main Elves (a returning Orlando Bloom is fine, but not particulary engaging this time out).

Smaug in The Hobbit: The battle of the Five Armies

While Freeman is great, the film was a little light on the Hobbit for the final HOBBIT film. His role is essentially as a side character to Thorin and Bard as they lead their armies in the climactic battle. He has his moments to shine, including a particularly emotional scene toward the end, but I could have done with more of him. Of course if the film followed the novel more closely, Bilbo would’ve been unconscious for the battle and we wouldn’t have seen it at all. So I suppose this is better.

As with all the Middle-Earth films the music is fantastic. Howard Shore knows how to sell an epic film with a gorgeous soundtrack. The credit song, “The Last Goodbye”, performed by Billy Boyd (Pippin from “The Lord of the Rings” series) is beautiful, and a touching closer for the film and the franchise as a whole.

“If more of us valued home above gold, the world would be a merrier place.”

Overall, the padding of the story to stretch it into a trilogy, and the over-reliance on CGI weigh the film down, but not by much. Tolkien’s world is still as rich and vibrant as it was when “The Fellowship of the Ring” came out thirteen years prior. “The Battle of the Five Armies” serves as a fitting and thrilling conclusion to the Middle-Earth saga. Peter Jackson, though possibly not as great as he once was has certainly accomplished a magnificent feat translating these classic tales to the big screen. And now the books will go back on their shelves, and we go back to our armchairs and our gardens. Middle-Earth will still be there waiting for us, whenever we decide to go back again.

My Rating: 8/10

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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