Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
The joke was immediately and always that the final installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy had seven or eight endings, and constantly faded to black only to return for one more scene. At least that’s what it felt like. Well, we’ve had three more movies since then set in Middle Earth, and with yet another final installment in yet another trilogy, Peter Jackson seems ready to say goodbye.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the shortest of all six massively-scaled films based on the world of author J.R.R. Tolkien, clocking in at a slender 144 minutes. It jumps right into some heavy action, returning to massive battle after massive battle while only periodically staying calm.
For those diehard fans, this is a long goodbye with a chance to check in on characters new and old, those from this trilogy and the prior one. For those more casual observers, hobbit fatigue will undoubtedly set in, but even when there are esoteric conversations about lands and monsters and jewels, action and CGI are not far off.
The story that does exist is a rather simple yet effective one. Following the release of the dragon Smaug, his mountain left unguarded is loaded with unimaginable riches while also bearing a strategic fortification for anyone inside. Thus, it’s The Hobbit: Gold Rush as our dwarf heroes take up hold while humans, elves, and nefarious orcs all soon descend, making for a lengthy and occasionally thrilling set to.
Perhaps it’s because the film speeds along that it’s not overly exhausting, though it’s definitely filling. Clichés abound and distract if not offend, from an exceedingly Scottish dwarf king to Tauriel (the female elf played by Evangeline Lilly created exclusively for the big screen) forced to endure familiar sexist situations.
That there are so many stories makes it difficult to care entirely for what is happening, but it also offers the viewer plenty of choice. There’s the corruption of the dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield; the love triangle between Tauriel, Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and the dwarf Kili; the plight of Bard trying to save his family; and by far the most pleasurable, the relationship between out titular hobbit Bilbo and the wise if not weary Gandalf.
After all, Bilbo may just be the most relatable, if not captivating character in this world. Played again with such charm and magnetism by Martin Freeman, Bilbo is a key figure but not necessarily a central character. He is involved in battle and engages with everyone in this massive world, but he still possesses this voyeuristic nature. Bilbo isn’t incidental, but we know he will survive this prequel and return home. There is a part of Bilbo that is entirely nonchalant, unfazed by massive dragons, warring species, and crazed orcs, goblins, and trolls.
There is a brilliant scene with him sitting beside Gandalf (Ian McKellan), taking in all that has happened. He sits with a slight smile while sort of nodding and shrugging his shoulders. That’s the feeling that I have at the end of the The Hobbit. It’s the prevailing sentiment that all was pretty cool, but I’m over and done with it so let’s carry on. Of course if you’re the devoted fan like the ones surrounding me at this screening, you just may be in tears.