The novels that J.R.R. Tolkien has created have provided an entire world of lore that has inspired countless books, movies, and video games. With the undeniable success of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was inevitable for The Hobbit to hit the big screen. However, the decision to split this single novel into three full-length motion pictures has left even the biggest of fans with mixed emotions. Many of us may greatly enjoy seeing a new chapter in Middle-Earth, but fear that the overall quality of the story could suffer due to what many view as an opportunity for the studio to grab some extra cash. While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey dragged, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug gave us something to be excited about. In the third motion picture, Jackson delivers a real show-stopper with the final entry, titled The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
After Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) has escaped the infamous mountain, he begins to exact his wrath upon the village of humans. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his company of dwarfs are forced to engage in a war against a wide array of combatants who have interest in the treasure under the mountain's massive wealth. However, the forces of evil have their own interests regarding Middle-Earth and the mountain that has proven to be so highly desirable. The battle of good versus evil has begun.
Starting right from where its predecessor left off, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies doesn't waste any time getting started. Smaug once again proves to be one of the most attention-grabbing creations of Tolkien lore, although anybody who has read the source material knows that the focus isn't entirely placed on this epic dragon through the picture's duration. Rather, it's about the journey of all of Middle-Earth. However, the entire trilogy proves to be a story about Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitrage). While it's told from the perspective of Bilbo, he isn't the character who is faced with change. The foreshadowing found in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug comes into effect, as Thoron begins to be corrupted by the hunger for wealth and power. The dwarves are known to be incredibly loyal, but greed has the power to destroy one from the inside outward. We begin to question how far this character is willing to go in order to ensure his own wealth, regardless of the relationships that he destroys along the way. While some may simply claim this as a Hollywood blockbuster, the major themes that make this story so relatable remain present. Screenwriters Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro have successfully incorporated something special to work alongside the spectacle.
If you've been awaiting some more action from this trilogy, then you'll be pleased to know that nearly half of the film's running time is composed of a battle sequence that truly feels as epic as it should. This is some of the most exciting action of the year, as the various combatants provide a wide array of strengths and weaknesses, making for a variety of different fighting styles. For example, the dwarves may not be the fastest, but they're strong. Meanwhile, the elves are incredibly agile and strategic. Especially when they're set against the countless number of orcs, audiences are given quite the show. Few films are able to entertain to the same capacity as The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies when it comes to action sequences that face the possibility of perhaps running a bit too long. In fact, it feels as if we just can't get enough of it. Running at only 2 hours and 24 minutes, this is a short venture for Jackson. I would have easily been pleased with another 30 minutes of extra footage. Unlike some of the previous entries, this is an entry that will have you excited for the inevitable extended edition that will hit home video at some point. This is a nice change of pace, where some of these films can occasionally drag on for a bit too long. This one leaves us wanting more.
However, that isn't to say that Peter Jackson's finale doesn't come without a few issues. Such problems include a couple of the sub-plots that are employed in order to give the film a sense of romance and humor, which both feel contrived. While a relationship between Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and a particular dwarf was already formed in the previous film, it reduces this once strong female character to a whiny, and suddenly weak role. This seems to be a trend that has been reoccurring in many modern action flicks. Even through some of the more serious sequences, Jackson and co. are clearly trying to bring a light-hearted sense to the film through the character of Alfrid (Ryan Gage), who is known as the assistant to the ruler of the human village. He continues to escape having to fight any battles, as he's willing to disguise himself as a woman in order to avoid combat. A couple of the jokes are humorous through the first half of the feature, but the character ultimately wears out his welcome. He becomes more of a nuisance that draws us out of the action and the drama, as it completely thwarts the overall tone that Jackson is working towards. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies tries to be a little bit of everything, which undeniably hinders the atmosphere of an epic final conclusion.
Since this is the last entry in the trilogy, all of the characters have found a place in this conclusion. Martin Freeman returns as Bilbo Baggins. While he has a lot less to do here than he did in the previous two entries, he once again proves to deliver a believable performance as a hobbit, who unexpectedly makes a large impact on this journey. However, this is Richard Armitage's show in the role of Thorin Oakenshield. Not only does he entirely convince us of this power-hungry dwarf, but he delivers a range that we haven't quite seen in the previous entries. Boasting a rather large supporting cast, there are plenty of recognizable faces that make this a complete trip to Middle-Earth. Including Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, and Cate Blanchett, this is just as grand in the casting department as it is in its the visual one.
As expected from visionary Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies looks absolutely stunning. The fantastical environments are astonishing, especially as he utilizes wide sweeps of large landscapes that truly allow us to feel the epic nature of this world. When the war truly kicks into high gear, the variety of action sequences look absolutely incredible. Fortunately, when it comes to fighting a leader of a particular group of Middle-Earth, the matches feel just as intense as they should. This is all thanks to the outstanding use of choreography, which allows us to enjoy the battle scenes that much more. There's a specific mastery of costume design, hair, and make-up that further immerses us in the lands of Middle-Earth. Every character is brought to life by the incredible details found in these very departments. The 3D varies throughout the course of the running time. Of course, the format is best utilized through the battle sequences, as the depth truly makes for a more intense moviegoing experience. As weapons are swung from one side to the other, it feels as if blades and arrows are coming right out at the audience. However, some of the landscapes are made more immersive with the 3D, especially when it comes to the snow that falls in front of the actors. Otherwise, it does hinder some of the brighter colors from coming through, and the depth isn't as consistently strong as one would imagine. Nevertheless, this is an extraordinarily good-looking piece of cinema.
When it comes to the big Hollywood blockbusters, I'll always prefer Tolkien-inspired filmmaking over the never-ending wave of superhero flicks. Unlike nearly every Marvel film, the stories have real stakes, where the characters encounter real danger. This allows for actual tension and excitement to be incorporated. This final entry proves to be an incredibly entertaining feature that proves to be relentless in its portrayal of war. The action sequences that make up a considerable amount of the running time are guaranteed to leave fans massively entertained, and still wanting more. However, it still manages to deliver enough dramatic material to make for an immersive world of characters. Even though it isn't without its issues, if you enjoyed the previous entry, then you're sure to like this one. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the finale that we've been asking for. Highly recommended!