A fitting conclusion
Setting aside for a moment any misgivings about the need to divide J.R.R. Tolkien’s slender novel “The Hobbit” into three gargantuan movies, the final installment, aptly titled “The Battle of the Five Armies” is a stirring and fitting conclusion of a memorable trilogy.
When compared to director Peter Jackson’s work on his previous Middle Earth trilogy “The Lord of the Rings,” “Five Armies” may not be as consistently entertaining. It’s also unlikely anyone was demanding another three movies, but history will likely look back with fondness at Jackson’s seminal work which now encompasses over 18 hours of finished film.
This installment indeed feels like one long (but not overly long, for a 144-minute film) battle sequence. It begins with the fire-breathing dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) laying waste to the small village of Laketown. Thanks to Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans), the monster leaves up for grabs untold riches in his treasure chamber. These early scenes are some of Jackson’s best action pieces—he has become an expert at combining thrilling aerial shots with heroic individual close-ups.
With Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) in more supporting roles here, the story focuses on Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), who, as leader of the Dwarves and corrupted by power and searching for the legendary Arkenstone, guards the treasures of the castle of Lonely Mountain and refuses to share them with their allies the elves. Eventually the Elves, led by Thranduil (Lee Pace) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) march on the castle with the help of other armies, including the menacing Orcs lead by the bloodthirsty leader Azog (Manu Bennett). Lest you think there isn’t room for romantic underpinnings, think again as unrequited forbidden lovers Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Kili (Aidan Turner) battle together in one of the film’s most heartfelt sequences.
One of the beautiful elements of Jackson’s work is how the director maintains our interest in the characters’ stories despite the frantic violence that rarely subsides for more than a few minutes. While the action is gruesome and the body count astronomical, the bloodless battles retain a dynamic, tense pacing and one particular icy confrontation is masterfully choreographed.
The film finishes where the first trilogy began, with a nice segue dovetailing right into the first moments of Jackson’s now 13-year-oldsaga. Purists can nitpick this final installment, but there is no denying that with these six films, Peter Jackson and his talented crew of performers and technical wizards have created a legacy of film unlikely to be replicated anytime soon.
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is an exciting, occasionally surprising closing chapter. Despite its flaws, it is a must-see event for anyone who has appreciated any of Peter Jackson’s remarkable and affectionate adaptations of arguably the greatest fantasy novels in popular literature.
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.