Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


Peter Jackson
Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro (Novel: J.R.R. Tolkien)
144 min.
Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Mikael Persbrandt, Sylvester McCoy, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, John Bell, Ryan Gage, Peggy Nesbitt, Mary Nesbitt, Manu Bennett, John Tui, Billy Connolly, Benedict Cumberbatch
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening

Buy on DVD/Blu-ray



Source Material

After thirteen years, the Middle Earth Saga has come to a close with the third and final film in The Hobbit Trilogy. Peter Jackson and crew have brought things full circle, ending where he began, but not before The Battle of the Five Armies takes its toll on the people of Tolkien’s legendary world.

The sixth film begins where the fifth ended. The great and powerful dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) has launched himself against the people of Laketown believing them to be responsible for sending a burglar into his home to steal his wealth. Breathing fire down on the fearful populace, it takes the courage of an archer named Bard and his equally courageous son to put an end to the dragon before he can destroy them all.

As one battle ends, another begins as the forces in Dol Guldur in the south of Mirkwood forest, where Gandalf has been taken prisoner by the forces of the Necromancer, now having revealed himself as the formidable foe Sauron. Launching a strike against The Lonely Mountain, Sauron’s forces march north to be joined by enemies from the north while the men, elves and dwarfs quarrel over rights to the dragon’s hoard.

Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth will never be surpassed. Delving into the fantastical world of J.R.R. Tolkien, he’s brought us many exciting stories within the narrow focus of the author’s four books and apocryphal data. It would be easy to lambast Jackson for expanding the small, kid-friendly story of The Hobbit into the massive, somewhat unwieldy cinematic triumph that it has been, but when you consider the extant material pulled in to enliven and flesh out the rather rudimentary Hobbit, the end result is nothing short of spectacular.

The cast acquits themselves well in the final outing, with the likes of Luke Evans being the weakest of the ensemble. Martin Freeman evokes the world weary Bilbo Baggins so effortlessly that it’s easy to forget how little the actor had to work from considering the rather simplistic depiction Bilbo receives in the story. His performance continues to be the highlight of the franchise even when stalwart actors like Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage flex their muscles in dominant performances.

Perhaps the stories could have been shortened. There are plenty of elements that could have been left out in favor of an extended release on DVD, but the splendor and magnificence of the world mutes those concerns as every minute we get to spend in the glorious realm of Middle Earth, even when dire forces are attempting to exert control over it, is a minute we should cherish. Jackson keeps the story flowing more easily than in the prior outing and the intense, spectacular combat sequences are punctuated with tense, somber valleys that allow the audience to breathe before being tossed back into the fray.

While The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies isn’t quite the emotional powerhouse in its final moments as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was, it still packs a lot of complex feelings. Unlike the original trilogy, not everyone makes it out of the final film alive and those multiple engagements with the audience are supremely engaging.

Peter Jackson may struggle to find a path out of Tolkien’s world, but after these energetic, exciting, superlative efforts, I can only hope he discovers a project that befits his passion. Perhaps he’ll one day return to the project with a miniseries based on The Silmarillion, but that’s a project only die hard Rings aficionados would likely find interest in.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a bittersweet finale. It takes us back to The Shire for one last visit where the wise words of Bilbo Baggins accentuate the necessity of small folks doing momentous tasks. It doesn’t matter your physical size, it only matters the size of your conscience and your heart. For even the smallest of souls can make the grandest of differences and that’s precisely the real world analogy Jackson can now lay personal claim to.

Review Written

April 6, 2015

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