Thus ends our time in Middle Earth. Spanning thirteen years, six films, and countless hours of adventure, Peter Jackson’s saga is now finished with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The Hobbit Trilogy has improved significantly from its first film back in 2012, but its concluding chapter still contains the aspects that the first two had; over-stuffed plot points, unnecessarily new characters, and goofy CGI characters which ultimately weigh it down, but it is saved by an impressive battle sequence and Martin Freeman’s performance.
Spoilers from the opening scene of the movie will be coming, so if you’re afraid of them or have not read the book, skip this paragraph: We pick up literally seconds after the second movie ends with Smaug flying towards Lake-town. The promises of an awesome and spectacular fight between the city and the dragon that the second movie seemed to set up are squandered within the first 10 minutes as Smaug is slain even before the title of the film is seen. This is perhaps the films first fault. Smaug was a fearsome and intense enemy from the second film, and it seems as though the filmmakers wanted him completely out of the way to focus on the titular battle, but even the synopsis includes his name in it on IMDB, which results in it feeling like an after-thought from the second movie. After the slaying, the citizens of Lake-town head to Erebor to seek shelter, Thorin enters the mountain to try and find the Arkenstone to return the kingdom to its former glory, Gandalf finds himself still in captivity by the Necromancer, and Bilbo just wants to get back home.
There are even more plot points that are crammed into the film like the continuing forbidden elf/dwarf love-affair between Tauriel and Kili, the unsteady relationship between Legolas and his father, Thorin enduring a weird hallucinatory nightmare, and the unfunny yet still forced Alfrid who does everything he can to steal gold. Needless to say there is a lot of padding. It takes an average of five hours to read the actual novel, but over eight to watch all three movies, so that really is saying something.
As always, Martin Freeman is excellent as Bilbo. His ever-bumbling yet courageous growth comes full circle in the battle sequences. He is perhaps the most saving-grace aspect of the film, yet he is hardly in it due to the large focus on the battle which takes up about 45 minutes of the 140 minute film and the immense cast. The battle is magnificent, yet not quite as powerful as those in Lord of the Rings. There is no sense of peril or doom that comes with Jackson’s other film battles, and that makes it feel less impactful in a sense. The armies that participate appear almost out of nowhere and simply start fighting. The characters fighting in the battle, and those who die, do not feel like major losses like those in Lord of the Rings because for the most part, the characters are either unlikable or not well-developed to the point where their loss would mean anything. It is hard as an audience to really like any of the characters especially when the cast is so large and we do not get a lot of the camaraderie that we got in The Lord of the Rings. The battle, near its end, does drag on a bit because of all the plot points that are brought up that need to be concluded, but it is entertaining and thrilling overall.
The battle, in terms of combat and scale, is massive. There are dwarves, elves, humans, and orcs. Most of them, however, are CGI, which takes away from its reality. The orcs have monstrous earthworms and huge trolls that are introduced in impressive and terrifying ways, but both are hardly seen and are ultimately wastes especially when the trolls look utterly goofy and laughable. This has been one of my biggest qualms with The Hobbit trilogy; all of the enemies are made from CGI, not practical effects like makeup and costume. They come off as unrealistic and fake, whereas in Lord of the Rings they were vicious and real. Matching the goofy CGI and absurd comical moments is equally silly dialogue that is delivered with such boredom and tiredness that it comes off as ridiculous and annoying. Gandalf’s one great line in the film is ruined by what appears to be his exhaustion from the role. Some of the other dialogue is horrendous like Tauriel trying to figure out what love is and wondering if her love is real or not.
In the end, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies closes the chapter decently enough to think that the entire trilogy was not as big a waste as it could have been, but it also makes us wonder it might have been like if it had been two films as it was originally planned. Freeman goes out on a high note, and the battle is awesome, if not goofy and cheesy in places. Our time in Middle Earth has come to an end, and it is hard to imagine that we will return any time in the foreseeable future. Jackson did his best with the saga, but he appeared to be running out of the steam he built up from his original trilogy, and perhaps that is what made these movie suffer most.