This was the last move in a great master plan: to dominate the box office, capture audience’s hearts and bring a mythical world to life. All three have been done, the former tenfold considering the end of 2014 grossing figures for the latest instalment into this epic middle-earth saga.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (here on in referred to as Five Armies) was the final journey into this fantasy world, and it was underwhelming to say the least. After The Unexpected Journey and Desolation of Smaug; this outing was sure to be of epic proportions. Considering the conclusion of the Lord of the Rings epic The Return of the King it was safe to assume that a film whose title is dedicated at showing a battle of five armies, the actual battle scenes themselves would be of excellent standard.
That was the first wrong assumption.
The second was that this instalment would be a fitting end to this 14 year long, six film adaptation series. It has its merits that I am staunchest in support of. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo as the titular hobbit was by far the greatest of characters, albeit used in a manner not befitting a leading man, he showed substantial character development and his scenes in Five Armies were the only ones that seem to hold any effect. Thranduil and Bard were also nice additions and their scenes too, though not dramatically powerful, at least felt they had importance to the narrative (even if said narrative deviated far from the book).
Weaker scenes almost overran the main objectify of this film: as necessary it was to rescue Gandalf, the almost drug infused tripped out scene featuring a pissed off Lady Galadriel (shot only in negative) was almost as bonkers as seeing Christopher Lee’s Saruman battle ghost warriors. I assume it was added to conclude this Dol Guldur subplot Desolation introduced, which for the life of me I still do not understand why it was given such importance. In the same vein; though I enjoyed the chemistry between Tauriel and Kili, their romance subplot felt underdeveloped, rushed and not particularly needed. (Casting a female elf was a stroke of genius, regardless if the character is of original creation, for a world where females tend to fall in the background, however!)
The film is bound to split audiences, either: you leave feeling not an ounce of disappointment or your vision of this finale unfulfilled. It is a fitting end to the saga; bravo to this 60 year old source material and the production crew that brought it to life. Or, and I believe the more dominant consensus, you leave the screening feeling bewildered at how the narrative took so many liberties with its foundation and is practically a new story in itself. That is the price of inflating one novel into a three part film adaptation. The run time is overly long, the narrative is stretched thin and replaced with original sub plots and characters, and the visuals are not their best. The molten gold Thorin envisions himself drowning in looks as if it was made by an amateur, not a highly paid visual effects studio.
The grandeur of The Hobbits sister series was always bound to be its downfall. The comparisons to The Lord of the Rings were abundant, some warranted and some not so much. However it is clear that Peter Jackson has created something that will last an age. Taking on the herculean task of bringing middle-earth to life, he has succeeded in this respect. The adaptations as a whole are beautifully scenic, with Five Armies capping off a very solid cinematic experience.
Final thought: I take great offence to the Eagles. A majestic bird they may be, but their penchant for swooping in at the last moment is beyond annoying, and quite frankly pretty tiring.