The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies(2014)
- RatedPG13 /GenreAdventure, Fantasy
'The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies'
That’s the amount of material by JRR Tolkien that director Peter Jackson has ingeniously finessed via movie magic into three epics that span almost eight hours in total.
The ‘Lord of the Rings’ (LOTR) – the books and movies – were written and made to be larger-than-life, a fantastical world of warring elves, orcs, men and elves anchored by the relationships of a gang of hobbits, namely Frodo, Sam and Pippin.
The source material for ‘The Hobbit’ movies, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. A rather skimpy children’s book that lacks an emotional core, light when compared to the weighty tomes of ‘LOTR’.
Perhaps this is why the first two ‘The Hobbit’ movies found it difficult to gain a solid plot footing while attempting to balance the carefree nature of Tolkien’s book with the magnitude of Jackson’s ‘LOTR’ vision.
The first, ‘The Unexpected Journey’, was a leisurely expedition by our protagonists, while ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ sees the dwarves and hobbits enter dangerous ground.
A WAR MOVIE
Photo: New Line Cinema
Like its LOTR counterpart, ‘The Return of The King’, ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ follows on a war footing as its title implies.
But before they go to war, Jackson has one massive cliffhanger to resolve.
Having arrived at their lost mountain kingdom, or Erebor, the band of dwarves (plus one hobbit) comes face-to-face with one angry, gold-hoarding dragon.
Stirred from his sleep, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) flies into the night and wreak havoc on neighbouring Lake-town and its inhabitants.
It is an exciting opening sequence, but the euphoria is shortlived as the movie changes gear and sets up the warring players going for the prize that is Erebor and its vast riches.
So who are the players?
The familiar dwarves holding fort at Erebor as their dwarf prince Thorin (Richard Armitage) goes into a paranoid rage; an army of Wood Elves, led by elven king Thranduil (Lee Pace) laying siege at the neighbouring city of Dale, and a rag-tag group of human survivors led by the handsome Bard (Luke Evans). Unsurprisingly, the elvenfolk and men want a share of the gold.
With their eye on the prize, all three factions are unaware of a sinister plot – involving orcs and a necromancer (also voiced by Cumberbatch) – that will change the future of Middle-earth.
Jackson throws different subplots into this already smouldering cauldron of a movie with expert skill. And when the skirmishes begin, it is full-steam ahead. Involved in the titular battle is a torrent of dwarves, elves, orcs and humans, with the clinking and clanking of all manner of weaponry.
Jackson the perfectionist ensured that every action set piece was meticulously choreographed and awashed with solid visual effects, thanks to the CGI team at Weta Digital.
But unlike its predecessors with its men in makeup and practical effects, this movie relies (almost) too much on computer-generated monsters. But even then, the battles – one of which is almost 45-minutes long – are the most engaging parts of the whole trilogy.
MARTIN FREEMAN’S HOBBIT SWANSONG
Photo: New Line Cinema
If there is one person that deserves plaudits, it has to be Martin Freeman as the titular hobbit.
His carefully calculated performance balances spot-on comic timing with a certain vulnerability, regardless of the prosthetic nose and glued-on facial hair.
Like his Tim Canterbury from British sitcom ‘The Office’, Freeman’s Bilbo exudes the same kind of ordinariness that is endearing. He is our proxy, the ordinary bloke thrown into peril. He is the film's conscience and moral compass.
Gandalf (Ian McKellen) barely registers in this installation, same for Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom).
Even the usually capable Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Hugo Weaving (Elrond) and Christopher Lee (Saruman) are relegated to fleeting cameo appearances that should have been played out in ‘Desolation of Smaug’.
Photo: New Line Cinema
Jackson should have stuck to the two-parter that Guillermo Del Toro intended instead of stretching himself out so thinly for much of the trilogy. At least he was sensible enough to place links to the original ‘LOTR’ films that clicks this time round.
For a movie that shouldn’t exist at all, ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ is entertaining and ultimately satisfying.
Just don’t be surprised to find yourself back at the beginning after this.
‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ opens 18 December 2014