The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – A Solid Goodbye to Middle-Earth
The debate will go on for now, and for decades (at least until the reboot) on whether there was any need for Peter Jackson to split over Tolkien’s children fable, encompassing boss battles and earth-shattering battlefield scenes, all of which the author didn’t bother to write. Tolkien scholars would definitely be enraged, but let’s not forget that Peter Jackson, with “The Hobbit” trilogy, have given us spectacularly staged sequences brimming with invention and invigoration. Yeah, there was lot of sugary stuff and some scenes looked arduous to sit through, but it isn’t terrible like Lucas’ first two ‘Star Wars’ episodes or Bay’s “Transformers” saga. There’s that usual pomp, tender character moments, and the most crowd-pleasing eye candies.
“Battle of the Five Armies” (2014), the last installment of this unnecessary trilogy, surely doesn’t give us the epic feeling we witnessed in “Return of King” (2003). But, you also have to understand the weak foundations on which Jackson has built this movie. The significant standout elements of “Hobbit” book were mostly finished with the first two movies – Gollum, barrel fighting, spiders, and chit-chat with Smaug the Dragon. So, the final movie was based on little story and footnotes. However, minute-by-minute Jackson has once again succeeded in delivering us the blockbuster spectacle. “Battle of Five Armies” surely has the sharpest narrative than the first two “Hobbit” flicks.
“The Desolation of Smaug” finished with a most unsatisfying cliff-hanger ending. And so here, the director waste any moments with prologue, putting us right in the middle of dragon’s assault on Lake Town. The assault and the inevitable death of Smaug makes up for an incredible opening sequence. Then, the movie at last gets back to its meaty theme: the power of greed. Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) gets corrupted by Smaug’s plunder and goes back on his words with the humans (Lake town refugees), and enrages the elves.
Thorin is ready to fight a war Erebor’s vast treasures, against the elves and humans. Alas, you can’t keep the orcs out of the picture and they come in with the thundering army. What happens next will be quite easy to figure out. Among all these rivalries, Bilbo and Gandalf firmly take their place imbuing enough wisdom to cast away the forces of evil. The final battle which was nearly 45 minutes long is thoroughly entertaining and gripping. One thing Peter Jackson perfectly knows (and Michael Bay doesn’t) is when and how to showcase the carnage. These sequences are once again inventive, exhibiting ingenious tactics, punctuated with some tender moments.
Apart from the battle and opening smaug sequence, the other captivating ones are the brief conflict between the ring wraiths and Galadriel plus Thorin’s hallucinatory descent into floor of burnished gold. At 148 minutes, Peter Jackson must have really controlled himself to add more flabby elements. He must have removed everything that didn’t concern with the main battle. Legolas pursuit for Bolg and similar threads are left unresolved, which may be answered with a weighty extended edition. In the final scene, Bilbo gets back to the picturesque Shire, and the goodbyes he gave aren’t as protracted as Frodo’s.
In the end, “Battle of the Five Armies” (2014) doesn’t look like Jackson’s work of greed. He tries to evoke the grandiloquence that might have made Tolkien proud. It may not be superlative, but definitely not superfluous.