Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly
Release Date (US): 17th December, 2014
Company: Warner Bros/New Line Cinema/MGM
“Will you follow me, one last time?” – Thorin Oakenshield
The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies is the sixth and last in a series of big screen adaptations of Tolkein’s beloved tales of Middle Earth. Peter Jackson (The Lord Of The Rings) directs this much-anticipated finale to the Hobbit trilogy, concluding the franchise he began thirteen years ago. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, Sherlock) and the company of dwarves are caught in the midst of a battle for the Lonely Mountain, as Smaug bears down on Lake-Town, and a familiar darkness rises in the shadows.
Since An Unexpected Journey was first released back in 2012, Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy has been heavily criticised for the decision to split one small children’s book into three 2 ½ hour-long + adaptations. The resulting franchise fatigue is most visible in the final instalment which, although a lot shorter, is weighed down by unnecessary filler material and overlong cartoony fight sequences in the absence of any real story.
The sheer enormity and range of characters involved – from the elves, to the dwarves, to the various orc antagonists – has added a Game Of Thrones-like complexity to the franchise (particularly in The Desolation Of Smaug), but the plot execution wastes this in the third movie. Unlike most finales, it never feels overstuffed – but instead just hollow and empty. This is made more tragic when you consider the strength of Tolkien’s rich source material, and, indeed, Jackson’s seminal Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
“Will you have peace, or war?” – Bard the Bowman;
“I will have war!” – Thorin Oakenshield
The acting, in stark contrast to the storytelling, is very strong. Jackson assembles his most impressive ensemble cast ever, which sees the return of a large number of old favourites from both The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings. Martin Freeman and Ian McKellan (X-Men) hold the story together with their honest and intensely likeable portrayals of Bilbo and Gandalf – in amongst all the shouting and jumping and CGI fight scenes.
Richard Armitage (Robin Hood) plays a much darker Thorin this time around, and, for the most part, succeeds – but for some questionable character development and weak writing. Luke Evans (Dracula Untold), Evangeline Lilly (Lost), Lee Pace (Halt And Catch Fire) and Graham McTavish (Outlander) are the stand-outs in a cast that’s consistently strong across the board. The only weakness is Ryan Gage’s (The Musketeers) gimmicky Alfrid – who receives far too much screen-time for such an insignificant character.
Direction & Tone
There was a time when Peter Jackson’s films were only criticised over their length. While entertaining and well-acted (these are no Star Wars prequels), The Hobbit trilogy never once looked like rivalling the Lord Of The Rings. The orcs are no longer terrifying. The battles are no longer epic. Jackson’s over-indulgent use of CGI has detracted from the visual feel of these movies, catering to a lighter, cartoony tone – rather than the tension and fear that gripped the original movies. They’re a lot of fun, but that’s about it.
- I have enjoyed The Hobbit trilogy as a whole, but at times they do feel like a thirteen-year-old’s fan-fiction of Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings movies…
- For an eleven-year-old’s fan-fiction of Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings movies, please see Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle.
- I’ve thought about it long and hard, and I still believe that Legolas’ CGI’d face is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Actually… that honour goes to Dain. He looks like he’s been taken straight out of a video game.
- Speaking of Legolas, his pathological attention-seeking and ridiculous onscreen heroics hit a whole new level here. They’re really quite something…
- And as for any further returns to Middle Earth? I’m pretty sure Tolkien’s estate have blocked Jackson & New Line from acquiring the rights for The Silmarillion. Looks like we’ll just have to settle for The Adventures Of Alfrid then.
Jackson’s last goodbye to Middle Earth is messy, poorly structured and yet still at times inexplicably entertaining. The talented ensemble of actors are as great as always, but this battle & CGI-dominated finale is embarrassingly inferior to The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.