In my copy of the Hobbit, The Battle of the Five Armies is covered in three pages. Majority of the events of this movie, beyond the story concerning Smaug and Laketown, is covered in one chapter. Thus begins the issues with the final installment of The Hobbit and the final (probably) visit to Middle-Earth.
The Battle of the Five Armies is the epitome of self-indulgence. New characters are introduced, huge parts of the story created but nothing to actually add to the overall Hobbit story or make it any better than a direct version of the book would have.
In fact, The Battle of the Five Armies is as detached from the first two movies as a final act in a series can be. My interpretation of the Hobbit was that it was a film about a company of dwarfs and a hobbit going to take back gold from a dragon but here we have the story of a selfish king, yet again corrupted by a powerful artefact and a battle that lasts at least half of the movie.
That is why it feels so detached. This isn’t a film about journeying anymore. It isn’t a personal journey or the development of Martin Freeman’s excellent Bilbo Baggins. This is now a story of five armies battling against each other, something we have seen in at least two other Lord of the Rings movies and much better. What was once a classic kids story has become a darker, battle-laden film with decapitation and some very violent action sequences.
That is the films saving grace. The individual battles are done brilliantly and although it doesn’t seem to match with the previous films, it is very cool to see Thorin battle the giant White Orc and Legolas give us the classic moves he portrayed in the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.
It also begins with the best moment of the whole film. The attack on Laketown is done excellently, with Smaug as terrifying as ever and Luke Evans on convincing heroic duty. It’s just a shame that in a movie of unnecessary stories, this one ends so quickly at the very start of the film.
That is the issue that plagues the movie. A lot of the stories and sequences are unnecessary. Ryan Gage’s Alfrid gets far too much screen time for a story that has no proper conclusion, as does Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel, who gets a whole romantic subplot which feels over-indulgent considering she wasn’t even a character created by Tolkien. The film is ambitious but after the first two hours, feels unnecessary.
Peter Jackson clearly loves the Tolkien story and Middle Earth and has delivered an excellent series of movies but they shouldn’t be labelled with The Hobbit – or at least this movie shouldn’t. I almost feel like Jackson could create decent, new and original stories with the Middle Earth setting but he shouldn’t try to do that if he is adapting a book that is so well-loved and well-known.
Overall, The Battle of the Five Armies has some amazing moments in it that showcase both Jackson’s love of the books and his creative skills as a director. Unfortunately, none of this hides the fact that the movie covers a brief moment in the book and feels unnecessary because of it. You can’t hide from the issue that it is a huge battle sequence, something we have seen done before, better, in other Peter Jackson movies.
Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)