THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
***1/2 (out of 5)
December 19, 2014
Martin Freeman as BILBO
Ian McKellen as GANDALF
Richard Armitage as THORIN
Benedict Cumberbatch as SMAUG
Orlando Bloom as LEGOLAS
Evangeline Lilly as TAURIEL
Luke Evans as BARD THE BOWMAN
Lee Pace as THRANDUIL
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Peter Jackson
BY KEVIN CARR
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For years, I have felt like a bit of an outsider when it comes to high fantasy fiction. Aside from some peripheral knowledge of Dungeons & Dragon and the video game Dragon’s Lair when I was a kid (both hit heights of popularity when I was in fifth grade), I haven’t been a huge fan of the genre. I never read Tolkien when I was a kid, and the fantasy movies made before the digital age were a bit of a chore to get through.
When “The Lord of the Rings” was released a dozen or so years ago, I watched them, but I wasn’t wild about them. With no childhood connection to the series, they were just fantasy action movies to me. “Return of the King” was my least favorite, and I thought it was a travesty that it won the Best Picture Oscar.
When Peter Jackson returned to Middle-earth to make “The Hobbit” films, I was a little more excited. I had seen the old animated film, and I was curious to see what Jackson would do with it. Sure, I rolled my eyes when it was announced the relatively short book would be split into three movies, but it didn’t bother me to the degree it has bothered others. (The same goes for what Jackson has added to this series from the appendices and other sources, which didn’t faze me because I was never tied to the source material in the first play.)
Consequently, I have quite enjoyed this run of films, even more so than the original “Lord of the Rings” series. The stories, while still bloated, were more digestible, and the color palate that Jackson used made them more vibrant than the muted blues and grays from the other series (which might be more a remnant of the filmmaking at the turn of the century than we have now).
Finally, we get the end to the entire Middle-earth saga. We get to see Ian McKellen play Gandalf one last time, and there’s plenty of action to keep the casual moviegoer happy. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is really just an ending. It kicks off right where the last movie left off, with Smaug heading to Lake-town to burn it into oblivion. The dwarves and hobbit are gathering in the mountain, leaving Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) to stop the dragon. However, a greater fight is brewing.
Thorin (Richard Armitage) finds his mind starting to be poisoned by the gold, which is the same thing that happened to his father. He intends to keep the loot for himself and his dwarf cousins. However, the elves are showing up to collect their reward while the people of Lake-town also come seeking compensation for the devastation left by Smaug. There’s also that pesky army of orcs bearing down on them, with the battle commencing on the mountain’s doorstep.
“The Battle of the Five Armies” is obviously very much like the previous films. The cast and crew is the same, and it’s purpose is to just wrap up the stories that have been winding along through two other movies. Similar to “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I,” “The Battle of the Five Armies” is just part of a film. At least with this one, we get the ending we’re looking for, and it’s pretty spectacular to see.
I would not recommend seeing this without having seen the other two films, as you will be lost on the internal relationships and politics in the film. Likewise, if you didn’t like Jackson’s other Hobbit movies, this is more of the same, so you’ll probably want to avoid it.
However, if you’re just looking for an enjoyable action film with lots of great effects, you’ll find some cool stuff here. I enjoyed “The Battle of the Five Armies” as a wrap-up to the series. It’s the shortest of the six Middle-earth movies, but it still runs more than two hours. But for holiday entertainment, it’s a great way to remind yourself why there’s still some value to see a big-screen movie in the theaters.