Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly

The epic conclusion to The Hobbit trilogy is finally here, and did it live up to the hype? Kind of.

Peter Jackson’s second trilogy set in Middle Earth has had a lot of expectations to live up to, and has partially succeeded. Was it really necessary to split The Hobbit, the shortest of Tolkien’s novels into three parts? That is an argument for another time, yet it has drip fed the attention of fans for over three years. This winter we face the final instalment of The Hobbit trilogy in The Battle of the Five Armies, as massive forces clash over the rights to the Kingdom of Erebor.

The extensive cast also returns on full form, with Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo Baggins adding a grounded sincerity to a film in which action takes the main role. After Benedict Cumberbatch’s magnetic performance of Smaug the Dragon in the Desolation of Smaug, I found it disappointing to see him taking a backseat in this instalment, with a mere 5 minutes of screen-time; the bulk of the film is comprised of tensions between the clashing races of Dwarves and Elves, led respectively by Billy Connolly and Lee Pace who provide solid performances.

Visually the film is spectacular, with superb special and practical effects being utilized to bring the vast array of creatures and characters to life on the big screen, including an army of grotesque orcs made unique by fantastically imaginative design. Performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the score is equally impressive at emphasizing the scale of events that unfold in the film, creating a very immersive atmosphere. However the writing on the other hand has much to be desired – expect dialogue that rivals your average B-movie, let alone the fantasy blockbuster that the audience has come to expect from Jackson’s work.

However, with all of the positives that the film achieves, The Hobbit: Battles of the Five Armies also hits some extreme low points for the series. The pacing of the story is the ultimate culprit in this case, with the unnecessary and sometimes nonsensical extension of the plot to fill the lengthy screen time. Expect pointless interactions with little to no pay-off in regards to the narrative, as well as poorly implemented cameos and links to the arguably more enjoyable The Lord of the Rings films. The battle scenes, whilst technically impressive and marvellously choreographed, have little impact to the viewer when compared to Jackson’s prior work in the LOTR universe (Helms Deep and The Battle of Black Gate). Void of emotion, I found that the action in The Battle of Five Armies merely acted as eye candy that binds the somewhat rambling plot together.

I have tried my best to appreciate Peter Jackson’s telling of the reluctant hobbit from Bag End, and there have been moments in the previous instalments that have enthralled me. Yet the sheer volume of errors present in The Battle of Five Armies is a detriment to the epic adventure that Jackson has envisioned, ending the series on a somewhat deflated note. There is a difference between something made to merely satiate the cinematic void for the LOTR fandom and an actual piece of cinema; I regretfully have to say that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a hollow attempt at both.

BEN SMART

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