Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly and Benedict Cumberbatch
Running Time: 144 minutes
Release Date: December 12th
Well, that’s that. With a combined length that would just about cover a long-haul flight to New Zealand, Peter Jackson can finally put Middle Earth to rest. Even with the shortest run-time of all six of the movies, The Battle of the Five Armies still feels like the concluding chapter of a trilogy of movies that really shouldn’t have been a trilogy in the first place. As prequels go, it’s not that they’ve been Episodes I to III bad, more that the combined audience reaction has been little more than a shrug.
Kicking off with the decimation of Smaug as the dragon lays waste to Lake-town, it’s not long before Thorin and co re-take the Lonely Mountain, and the dwarves’ leader starts going a bit Gollum-y once he’s surrounded by the treasure within. Meanwhile, the human survivors of Lake-town are looking for a place to find refuge, the Elven warriors are looking to get back some family heirlooms, the Orcs want a strategic base for the future war, and they all converge at the Lonely Mountain, a bit rowdy and looking for a fight.
With a vibe reminiscent to the final Harry Potter film, but with none of the catharsis of that movie’s final battle (since we know there’s still another trilogy of battles to go), this final Hobbit suffers far too much due to comparison. Despite the much-hailed 45-minute battle climax, it’s not as good as the rain-soaked Helm’s Deep scene, which was filled with characters were grew to love and care about. Five Armies has barely a handful of likeable folk, with the group of dwarves being about as interchangeable and memorable as the members of Stereo Kicks.
Within the dwarves, Jackson focuses on Thorin and Kili, but Richard Armitage can’t handle the psycho-baggage involved in the former’s mental breakdown, but at least Aidan Turner is given more to work with as the latter. The shoe-horned in romance with Evangline Lilly’s Tauriel brought scenes in Desolation to a shuddering hault, but here they provide the heart and soul in the midst of the endless CGI scraps.
Even as the tens of thousands of not-really-there warriors invade the screen, it’s the smaller moments that pop the most. An imprisoned Gandalf being saved by Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman brings in a brief reminder of how great the original trilogy was, not least because we see the ever-great Ian McKellan being reunited with Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee. Lee Pace and Orlando Bloom as at-odds royalty get some of the best detail-filled fight scenes, and Martin Freeman continues to embrace Bilbo Baggins’ loyalty, fearlessness and implicit complicated nature in the kind of way that will probably mostly go unnoticed.
Still though, that’s that. While Jackson tried to end it all with a bang, the audience will most likely react with an almighty sigh. Unless he wants to turn Tolkien’s thank you section into a quadrilogy…