UK Release Date: 12th December 2014
Runtime: 144 minutes
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace
Synopsis: Multiple factions of Middle Earth converge on Erebor to fight for the riches of the Lonely Mountain.
It’s finally here – the concluding chapter of Peter Jackson’s seemingly endless adaptation of short novel The Hobbit. Covering the last few chapters of the book, The Battle of the Five Armies takes what should be the most interesting part of the story and turns it into a desperately boring film.
Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) watch from Erebor as Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) sets fire to Laketown before being shot down by Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans). With the dragon gone, the riches of the Lonely Mountain lead a number of armies to the dwarves’ new front door, including Thranduil’s (Lee Pace) elves, Billy Connolly’s Thorin-allied dwarves and an orc horde led by Azog the Defiler.
Despite being the shortest movie in the Hobbit trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies still has a tonne of problems with its pacing. With very little material to get through, it spends a whole hour of its running time telling the audience that there’s about to be a war every eight seconds – a fact which the title surely makes apparent.
| "Will you follow me, one last time?"
Perhaps the worst thing is that The Battle of the Five Armies still fails to inspire any enjoyment when the titular scrap kicks in. Whilst the CGI spectacle is mind-boggling, there’s very little in the soulless graphics to force the audience to connect with what’s happening. Moments that should have real emotional impact instead simply come across as pixels smashing against each other.
It’s frankly remarkable that characters who the audience has spent more than five hours watching have had so little room to grow. In lengthening The Hobbit, Jackson had a real chance to provide depth for his characters, but he has instead spent the entire series knee-deep in pointless additions to the story that add nothing to the experience.
The film also suffers from the fact that the story sidelines its title character, the befuddled portrayal of whom by Martin Freeman has consistently been a series highlight. In his place, Richard Armitage takes centre stage as the bizarrely megalomaniacal Thorin Oakenshield, failing to make any impact whatsoever with his gruff threats and unbearable platitudes. Evangeline Lilly also fails to grow into her badass female role, as Jackson saddles her with a hopelessly underwritten romantic subplot.
The rest of the cast is packed out with famous faces appearing in unremarkable cameos. In fact, the only standout is Luke Evans, who really steps up as Bard the Bowman before disappearing promptly when the film’s narrative begins to move. Of all of the characters given short shrift in The Battle of the Five Armies, Bard is the one who could’ve done with a bit more screen time.
| "If more of us valued home above gold, it would be a merrier world."
It’s not all bad news for the film though. The Battle of the Five Armies opens with Smaug’s fiery assault on Laketown, which is rendered with some terrific CGI work and genuine tension. Benedict Cumberbatch once again excels as the voice of the sinister dragon and Luke Evans makes the most of his moment in the spotlight.
However, when the dust settles and the final battle is done, there’s a feeling of anti-climax about it all. It seems like there are very few consequences to the supposedly monumental action and the surviving characters pretty much go back to their normal lives. The same is true for the audience. Twenty years from now, this film will be nothing more than a whisper in the wind.
Pop or Poop?
The Hobbit ends with a whimper rather than a bang as The Battle of the Five Armies continues to make the same mistakes as the previous two films in the series, lacking in character depth and trudging through the narrative at a glacial pace.
Martin Freeman is solid, but relatively hidden, whilst Richard Armitage fails to rise to the occasion in a beeefed-up role.
But it all just feels a little pointless by the end. Despite all the death and destruction, there isn’t enough to make the audience lose their heads.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.