The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the end of a journey in more ways than one. After spending 888 minutes (almost 15 hours) in Middle Earth – with wizards, Hobbits, Orcs, magical rings, and all things in between – Peter Jackson delivers the final 144 minutes in this epic tale.
The last time we saw Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Friends they just pissed off a very angry dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who was headed to turn Laketown into pile of ash. As if a ferocious fire breathing dragon wasn’t enough, the group must defend the ocean of gold and jewels left behind by Smaug and claim what’s rightfully theirs.
The only obstacle is the “free gold” sign Smaug leaves behind in his absence brings a massive battle to Erebor that includes a Dwarf army, Orc army, Elf Army, and a giant bats.
Living in that strange book adaptation/ prequel-sequel cinematic space, The Battle of the Five Armies’ ending was known before pre-production was even dreamt of. Even though Bilbo’s impossible journey never puts him in any real danger, watching him try to save Middle Earth remains enjoyable.
The Battle of the Five Armies is a much more centered story. Like most of Jackson’s Hobbit based films, the best part is the battle itself and the heart of its characters, and that’s where the film spends most of its focus. There are a few cutaways to Gandalf the Whatever Color He is Now but those scenes are brief. There’s not a lot of walking or “precious” ring usage, just one big battle to settle the future of Middle Earth…..for now.
The movie’s best character is Thorin (Richard Armitage). His character arc in all three films comes to an apex once he gets inside Erebor and is overwhelmed by all that gold. He starts suffering from “dragon sickness” and even starts dressing like a 1970’s pimp wearing a big coat and tons of gold. I thought he was going to backhand Bilbo at one point when he asked him about the Arkenstone – Thorin was indeed ahead of his time.
Despite Bilbo not being the film’s best character, he remains the central character for the film and the heart of Jackson’s trilogy. More than the other films. Bilbo’s gentleness and persistence is needed in this film. They film leaves all the big battle scenes up to other characters who are up for the challenge.
Battle of the Five Armies isn’t breaking new ground. The battle cry – losing battle- someone comes over the hill to save the day – formula has been exhausted. After six films, it’s so predictable you can almost set your watch to it. This formula should be annoying but Jackson executes those scenes better than most directors and that’s why they’ve worked all these years.
The Battle of the Five Armies is a film for fans of LOTR and The Hobbit. It’s the culmination of everything we’ve seen thus far. It’s the end of the beginning. It’s the start of something that we already know the ending to. Albeit predictable and formulaic, The Battle of the Five Armies is the perfect ending to the series.