Movie Review – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

All good things must come to an end, and the Lord of the Rings film series is no exception – unless Christopher Tolkien decides to expand the LotR film rights to include material from the Silmarillion, but that’s probably not going to happen. We’ve now come to the end of the Hobbit trilogy with The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.

Cast and Crew

Ian McKellen as Gandalf
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
Richard Armitage as Thorin
Ken Stott as Balin
Graham McTavish as Dwalin
William Kircher as Bifur
James Nesbitt as Bofur
Stephen Hunter as Bombur
Dean O’Gorman as Fili
Aidan Turner as Kili
John Callen as Oin
Peter Hambleton as Gloin
Jed Brophy as Nori
Mark Hadlow as Dori
Adam Brown as Ori
Orlando Bloom as Legolas
Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel
Lee Pace as Thranduil
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Christopher Lee as Saruman
Ian Holm as Old Bilbo
Mikael Persbrandt as Beorn
Sylvester McCoy as Radagast
Luke Evans as Bard
Stephen Fry as Master of Laketown
Ryan Gage as Alfrid
Peggy Nesbitt as Sigrid
Mary Nesbitt as Tilda
Manu Bennett as Azog
John Tui as Bolg
Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug/Necromancer (voice)
Billy Connolly as Dain

Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo Del Toro
Directed by Peter Jackson

The Premise

Previously On… The Hobbit: Bilbo Baggins, a quiet unassuming Hobbit from Hobbiton is roped into going on an adventure by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, and a company of thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, to travel to The Lonely Mountain, to reclaim the lost dwarven kingdom of Erebor. The dwarves were forced out when the great dragon Smaug attacked, destroying the Dwarven kingdom and the nearby human city of Dale. Smaug lives in the mountain still.

The party undergoes many trials and tribulations on the trip. They are harried by the Orc warlord Azog the Defiler, who fought with Thorin at the Battle of Moria, where Thorin cut off Azog’s hand. While passing through the Misty Mountains they are also threatened by stone giants, and captured by the corpulent Great Goblin. In their escape, Bilbo is separated from the company, and ends up encountering the horrid creature Gollum, and in the dark, comes across Gollum’s magic ring, which grants him the power of invisibility when worn.

Gandalf also discovers from another wizard, Radagast the Brown, that a dread sorcerer – the Necromancer, has taken up residence in Mirkwood. Suspecting that the Necromancer is one of the nine ringwraiths (particularly the Witch King of Angmar), Gandalf investigates and discovers that the Nine have indeed escaped from the tombs where they have been imprisoned, and warns the White Council. When Gandalf investigates Dol Guldur, the Necromancer’s fortress in Mirkwood, he discovers that the Necromancer is not the Witch King of Angmar – he’s something worse: Sauron himself. Gandalf is overpowered and captured.

Meanwhile, Thorin and company reach the lonely mountain, after being captured twice more, once by giant spiders in Mirkwood, and once by the Wood Elves, where they were held by the order of their ruler – Thanduril. Bilbo saves the company both times, and eventually they reach Laketown, where they take refuge with Bard, a member of the town guard – though the party is pursued by Tauriel, a she-elf, and Legolas. Tauriel has also become somewhat smitten with Fili (and vice versa), though Legolas is in love with Tauriel.

Fili, Kili, Oin and Gloin remain in Laketown after Fili is injured in combat with orcs, while the rest of the party advances to the mountain. There Bilbo encounters Smaug and pockets the Arkenstone, a magical stone that the previous Kings Under The Mountain were obsessed with. However, Bilbo tips off that he came with the assistance of the people of Laketown, and Smaug sets off to destroy the city.

And Now The Conclusion…

The High Points

Dain of the Iron Hills is a character who really doesn’t get that much characterization in the book. Tolkien kind of slips into “this is actually a history” mode with Dain, writing about the character with the assumption that you already know who Dain is, and consequently he doesn’t need to characterize him for you. The writers of The Hobbit, on the other hand, recognize that you do need to characterize the guy, when you’re adapting a book to a movie – and they do a great job of that, making him a distinct and memorable character in his relatively short amount of screen time.

Azog the Defiler is also a very cunning and canny general – possibly the best general in the entire Lord of the Rings franchise to date. He has a strong grasp of tactics and large scale strategy, and is able to coordinate the efforts of both his armies on both the large and small scales to great effect. Even with Thorin killing him, were it not for the Eagles, the Orcs could have still carried the day.

The Low Points

While I enjoyed the White Council’s purging of Dol Guldur, Galadriel’s presence felt far more passive than I would have liked.

Several significant lines from the book are either cut or shortened in comparison to the lines from the book. While I understand that material, in an adaptation, needs to be adjusted for the screen, those lines were important and weighty enough in their original appearance that I feel changing them hurts the work rather than helps it. Additionally, the depiction of Thorin’s dragon sickness felt a bit excessive, particularly with some of his dialog being done in really drawn out slow motion.

The Scores

Originality: This version of the Battle of the Five Armies makes some changes with how the events occur in the book, while still keeping the important bits. 4/6

Effects: The effects are nicely done, in particular WETA’s Massive system has advanced well enough to handle smaller scale battles really well (as the Battle of Five Armies, while involving Five Armies, is still a relatively smaller battle than the Battles of Helm’s Deep and The Pelennor Fields. 5/6

Story: Tolkein’s original story is very good, but has some narrative problems that makes a straight adaptation to the screen work poorly – and this adaptation addresses those problems generally nicely (though I’d still be fine if we didn’t have the unnecessary love story). 4/6

Acting: The acting is generally good – and Billy Connolly practically steals the show as Dain. Richard Armitage’s acting choices for Thorin’s dragon sickness work’s well, though the effects that is put with the performance undermines it – but that’s not Armitage’s fault. 5/6

Production: From a sheer set/costume/sound design standpoint, WETA cannot be beat. Combine that with a very nicely done score, I can say with confidence that WETA will continue to clean up in the technical Oscars. 6/6

Emotional Response: Thorin’s death is just as impactful as it is in the books. Fili and Kili’s deaths have impact – which puts them up on the books, but the impact isn’t much greater than that. 4/6

Overall: I enjoyed this movie a lot, and it’s nice cap on the series. 5/6

In Total, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies gets 33 out of 42.

One reply

  1. The music is great and the visuals are absolutely spectacular. Tolkien’s storyline still gets lost among Jackson’s elaborations– and the beginning sequence shows just how much a cheat the middle movie was, in terms of coming to some kind of completion.

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