Note: This review and Shmee’s take contain spoilers!
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies caps off a trilogy of films based off of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world more than the book that the movies are named after. Scenes and characters not in the book have been added to the story or expanded upon, but they generally serve to help bridge the gap between these prequel films and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. In this film the clearing of Dul Galdor by the White Council is especially cool. Seeing Saruman, Elrond, and Galadriel use their power to more than chew up a scene is very enjoyable and helps to cement these figures as truly powerful beings in that world. I was worried that Jackson had overplayed his hand with bringing Sauron into the picture so fully, but plays it just right that there is enough doubt that everyone’s willing to take Saruman’s word that the Enemy is gone.
Other scenes and character that are original to the movie and are less helpful to the overall story and plot – for instance the biggest problem is the “relationship” between the made-up elf Tauriel and the dwarf Fili. I’m actually not against elf/dwarf love and I actually like Tauriel; I just want it to be a little less forced. So much of their storyline is contrived and unrealistic that those scenes are distracting. Having just watched The Desolation of Smaug the night before, I realized that the only reason Fili is injured in that movie and left in Laketown is so Tauriel can pretend to be Arwen and Fili can see an angel; because as soon as they can those Dwarves in Laketown head off to join Thorin and company. Another scene that irked me was that we last saw Legolas riding off to kill Bolg, but then he just turns up and gives a little infodump.
The destruction of Laketown and the felling of Smaug is actually really well done, with the usual Jackson touches that can be either eye-rolling or clever depending on your mood/tolerance for Jackson’s gimmicks. I was actually pretty excited when Bard took up just a plain bow and quiver of arrows instead of the Dwarvan Windjammer they’d made up and then despite that not panning out, the scene with the son actually was kind of endearing. Ultimately Smaug died wonderfully.
The remainder of the movie then revolved around getting us to the titular battle. I enjoyed most of this, although I would have preferred to never see the Master’s toady Alfred(?) ever again and yet the movie keeps bringing him back. He was most annoying and actually worse than the elf/dwarf love story – which is saying a lot. The reasons for the people of Laketown showing up at the gates of Erebor actually make more sense – they’re desperate and in need which is something they never seemed in the book and that never made sense to me. The Elf King is a tool once again, but Legolas drops the hint that he’s a cold and distant a*@hole because he lost Mrs. Elf King a long time ago – and then his heart grew two sizes bigger. Not really, because he marches his reindeer up to the Dwarven city to demand his shiny things.
Meanwhile Thorin has gone gold crazy and the search for the Arkenstone has begun to strain his relationships with Bilbo and the others. It’s at this point that you realize that we’ve only really heard from four of the thirteen dwarves – Thorin, Dwalin, Balin, and Kili. The rest do their best giving sad or glad looks in the few scenes they have. During and after the battle this is especially evident because we spend no time with dwarves besides Thorin, Dwalin, Fili, and Kili. I’m sure in the Extended Edition we’ll have more scenes with the Dwarves fighting and probably one were Bombur turns into a bowling ball and crushes a swath of Orcs. Still it was sad to have the Dwarves regulated to scenery for almost all of the film.
The actual battle started off like it might be a pretty good set piece, but then it devolved into too many individual scenes that took place outside of the actual battle. With the rabble of men and the well-drilled lines of Elves at their gate the Dwarves look to the south and there marching over the ridge is Cousin Dane and his army of Dwarves. Dane is a great character, your typical Dwarf with Scottish accent, red hair, and fiery spirit. The other dwarves are a little underwhelming look-wise, they’re all grey and uniform. A little color would have made them stand out just a little bit better. Still, when they formed up that shield wall I nearly cried – it was a thing of beauty. The stupid Elves had to ruin it by jumping over it to engage the Orc one-on-one instead of just making it rain arrows safe from behind the dwarf wall’o’death and so begins the devolution of the battle in a spiral of stupid.
Azog the Defiler, cunningly sends half his forces into the ruined city of Dale where the human survivors are milling about. This is actually a really smart move. Somehow though Bard and his fifty men are able to race across the battlefield (around the Orcs?) and get in front of this second force to rebuff the enemy’s advance. They are fighting for their families so I’ll give them that. The Elves, also bypassing the Orcs, show up to help the humans – although sadly the mighty reindeer does not survive. This leaves the Dwarves all alone, their line scattered because some fancy elves decided to show off and no Dwarf can suffer that. All this is happening while Thorin does… nothing. We see him doing lots of brooding and scowling, which is pretty much all he’s done the entire time. Finally he is confronted by his most loyal friend Dwalin and afterwards he has a fever dream atop the floor of gold they poured in the last film. This is arguably the worst shot scene in all the Middle Earth films. It is literally just Thorin looking sickly, with gold lights playing off his face, while voice-overs repeat lines from the last two films. The whole time I was watching it I was thinking how it would have been so much better to have the person speaking rise up from the gold like a statue, slowly surrounding Thorin, and then the gold swallowing him – cut, scene!
Regardless, Thorin realizes he has been a fool and gathers his men for a charge out into the field of battle. Forgetting that a battle has been raging for the whole of the time we’ve been with Thorin, things are pretty much the same. The Dwarfs are on their last legs when Thorin’s company breaks down the barricade with a poorly placed golden bell we’ve never seen before (I mean who designs a bell that would have broken the door every time you rang it?). This is enough to spur the Dwarves on though and they start to break the Orc lines… until Thorin takes off to go do his own thing again. GAHHHHHH!!!!!
Riding awesome battle mountain goats Thorin, Dwalin, Kili, and Fili scale the rock walls to battle Azog the Defiler. Leaving the other Dwarfs in a lurch once again. Kili and Fili fail to hear Admiral Akbar’s shout of warning and are killed by Azog and Bolg – although Fili does get to die looking at his lady elf love… it was almost sad. Legolas does his Legolas-thing and its actually pretty cool – he drives an troll for Pete’s sake! Thorin faces Azog the Defiler and beats him in a really clever way, of course he has to die so Azog the Defiler gets to stab his foot through thick ice and the two skewer each other.
What about the second Orc army, you ask? Radagast and the Eagles (My new band name) swoop down and scatter the Orcs and then Beorn in a cool sequence drops from the sky, transforms into his bear form, and starts to rip the remaining Orcs to pieces. Then we never see them again.
The film starts to wind down. Elf King suggests Legolas go to the north to meet a ranger they call Strider… but his real name you must discover yourself (foreshadowing!). Tauriel mistakes her broken back for love pains and Elf King consoles her as only a stuck-up elf could – because it’s real. Bilbo says good-bye to Thorin and the rest of the Dwarfs come to mourn. Then we jump to the next morning?? And Bilbo is given a chorus of smiling Dwarf faces to see him off back to the Shire and we get a nice dovetail scene with the Fellowship of the Rings.
Unlike the Lord of the Rings where we get five endings, The Hobbit only gives us one and lots of unsettled plot lines. Why did the trolls in the battle not turn to stone? Did Bard and family survive? Who is King Under-the-Mountain now? Did Dane survive? What does Taurial do now? What about the other dwarves? Of course Bilbo gets closure, but the rest once again in this film are left by the wayside.
I have now spent fifteen hundred and forty-two words sharing some disappointments I have with The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies so that must mean I didn’t like it… sorta? I think more than the other films the Extended Edition will help this movie solve a few of my problems; namely with the other Dwarves, some of the battle, and the aftermath. Also, I think this movie works best in conjunction with the other films; it’s almost a middle film moving the story forward but not really concluding anything. Ultimately, the movie was par for the course for this trilogy of films and had I not so invested in the story could probably overlook many of its “sins”. While not as good as the Lord of the Rings films The Hobbit films do have their moments and charm that still make them good films. I complain and pick apart not because I don’t care but because this is a story and characters I care about. It may sound harsh and bitter, but I really do appreciate the effort Peter Jackson and crew put into creating the world of Middle Earth for the big screen.
The Paladin did such a good job summing things up that I decided to hijack his review for this film instead of writing my own complete one. Yeah I know it is a jerky think to do, but that is how I role!
I am of two minds when it comes to The Hobbit films, on one hand they have shown me things I only could have dreamed of before, and they looked amazing. On the other had they came with a bunch of stuff I didn’t want or ask for, and they feel weighted down because of that. I mean the series gave me a soulful dwarven song, a great troll dinner, the escape from the goblin caves, Beorn The Skin-changer (werebear), a killer Mirkword spider fight, the greatest dragon we have ever seen on film and the destruction of Laketown, Galadriel kick major behind, and most of the Battle of the Five Armies.
But it also gave me way too many needless Orc fights, empty character development, almost every action scene was too long, and a dragon versus dwarf gold fight that didn’t make any sense. I think this was all because that these films were Lord of the Rings Prequels and not truly Hobbit movies. If this would have been one four hour movie, or two, two and a half hour films. They would have been great, but we had to sit through a lot of extra junk to make them “epic”. The story was epic enough on its own, but they are what they are now, and they are still pretty good.
Peter Jackson brought Middle Earth to life for me, so even with these heavy handed and bloated Hobbit films, I will always be grateful for that. Heck unlike The Paladin I liked the dwarf/elf love story, I just think the elf-king didn’t need put his two cents in there. Again just a little too much extra. Oh well. The series is over and I am glad that I watched them. If we take a trip to the earlier ages of Middle Earth, I hope some other director will get a shot at the world this time.