This really is the last of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films… or is it?
Let me just get this out there now: Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a flawed film. Many people thought it was a bad idea to stretch Tolkien’s 320 page novel into three films the way he did the original trilogy, but be it over ambition on his part or dollar signs on the studio’s part, it happened. He stretched that book within an inch of its life and nowhere is that more apparent than in this third and final film.
The biggest flaw is that the second installment, The Desolation of Smaug, didn’t have a proper ending. It just stopped. That pissed me off to no end. I get that it’s the second film in a trilogy, but you still need to give the film a proper ending. Yes, the films are all probably meant to be watched one after another in a complete sitting (minus bathroom breaks and need for food and beverage), but a single film still needs to stand on its own with a beginning, a middle and an end.
Anyway, this one picks up right where the last one left off. Smaug the dragon (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) is pissed and destroying the small village of the humans. Bard, the archer (Luke Evans), gets himself a fancy arrow and strikes the dragon down with one blow and saves the day. This isn’t a big spoiler here; it happens in the first ten minutes or so of the movie. This is what takes place before the title screen appears. This is after all the battle of the five armies, not the battle of Smaug.
With Smaug dead, Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his dwarves are free to settle into their old home. The journey seems like it should be over. However, Thorin is falling pray to the sickness that over took his grandfather and begins carrying more about the gold in his basement than helping those who need it. The human’s entire village has been destroyed and they want help rebuilding. They want what Thorin promised them. Also, the elves show up wanting a piece of jewelry back that they’d given to the dwarves years ago. Thorin says he’d rather go to war than help out.
An army of dwarves show and and just before they can go toe-to-toe with the elves and humans a massive army of orcs arrive. Realizing the obvious threat, the dwarves, elves and humans team up to fight the orcs. Our titular battle has begun. But wait, that’s only four armies. Where is the fifth? Well, there is a second army of orcs on the way, is that the fifth? A bunch of eagles show up to help at some point. Are they the fifth? A little internet research afterwards reveals that the goblins are actually the fifth army in this battle. Sure, there are some goblins in this movie, for about five minutes, if that.
Of the now six Tolkien films Jackson has made, Battle of the Five Armies seems like the one he’s taken the most liberties with. We all knew that this last film was basically just going to be a two and a half our battle scene and that’s basically what it is. There is pretty much no character development as all our characters are established at this point. The only one who goes through any changes is Thorin. Other than that you have the good guys and the bad guys and you get to see them duke it out one last time.
I feel like I’ve been complaining a lot, but here’s the thing. Despite all my complaints, this is still one hell of a fun movie. It’s easily the weakest of all Jackson’s Tolkien films, but it is still a fun wild ride that you are sure to enjoy from minute one to the closing credits. It isn’t until after the film is over and you start thinking about it that the holes begin to reveal themselves and you start to realize how flawed it really is.
But what can you do? It’s the last film. Jackson is done now. Should he have made it two films instead of three. Absolutely! I bet edited down, these three good films would make two spectacular ones. This is where this biggest let down comes in: this is the last film. Not just the last of the Hobbit trilogy, but the last of the Tolkien series. If they make any more films at this point they’ll just be making up new stories (please let them not make up new stories!). The Return of the King was a bad ass movie and ended the original trilogy on a very strong note (even if the last 30 minutes dragged a little – how many endings were there again?). However, this time around, the third Hobbit movie gives us the weakest of the six films. When Battle of the Five Armies is over you just kind of shrug your shoulders and think “Yeah, that’s it.” That’s not how I wanted to react, but I did.
Yet that didn’t stop me from enjoying every minute of this film, flaws and all. Even through the flaws there were some truly amazing moments. The rescue of Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is easily the best scene in the movie. All the characters get their bad ass moment. Legolas (Orlando Bloom), who isn’t even really supposed to be in these movies, has moments that rival his best in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), the character Jackson made up so there would be more female characters, has some great moments too, though not as strong as the previous film. Bard is a great hero for the human’s fighting to save his family and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) does his best to keep the peace and when he can’t he fights along side his friends like the true hero he is.
All-in-all, The Battle of the Five Armies is a perfectly fine two and a half hours of entertainment. If you’ve watched all of Jackson’s Tolkien films up to this point, you are going to see this one. If you’ve enjoyed all the films up to this point, you are going to enjoy this one. Is it going to be your favorite? No. Like me, I’m guessing it will most likely be your least favorite, but even the worst Peter Jackson movie is still ten times better than most the other rubbish out there these days.
Director: Peter Jackson Notable Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Ricahrd Armitage, Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly Writer:Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro, based on J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Hobbit”
Mike Noyes received his Masters Degree in Film from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. A few of his short films can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/user/mikebnoyes. He recently published his first novel which you can buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Days-Years-Mike-Noyes-ebook/dp/B07D48NT6B/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528774538&sr=8-1&keywords=seven+days+seven+years