The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ends one of the more mundane trilogies and although certainly the passion was there, Peter Jackson and company turned what should have been a 5 hour two-parter into three movies with unnecessary filler to go along with characters, new ones specifically, that were utterly forgettable.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Genre(s): Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Drama
Warner Bros. | PG13 – 144 min. – $44.95 | March 24, 2015
THE MOVIE – 2.75/5
Note: This review does contain spoilers concerning the plot, so please skip if you don’t want story elements revealed.
And so it ends. The Hobbit trilogy is over and all this reviewer can say is: “What’s on next?” This has to have been one of the more mundane trilogies to be released as it never delves to the levels of, say the Star Wars prequels yet it pales in comparison with Jackson’s own Lord of the Rings either. With The Battle of the Five Armies, it’s even clearer that Jackson and company spread an already thin story even thinner and should’ve been at the most a five hour epic than going on eight hours.
The conclusion of our story begins where Desolation of Smaug left off: the fire-breathing dragon Smaug (voiced by BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH) has escaped from the Lonely Mountain, in spite of the efforts of the dwarves, and is set to wreak havoc on the townsfolk of Lake-town, literally setting it on fire, killing hundreds including the Master of Lake-town (STEPHEN FRY) as he and his kiss-ass deputy Alfrid (RYAN GAGE) try to escape with the town’s gold. Greed (gold) and war is a common theme throughout Five Armies. And a not-so-subtle theme either.
In any case, Bard (LUKE EVANS) escapes from his jail cell in creative fashion and gets to work to stop Smaug and restore his family name as his forefather failed the last go around. With the help of his son, Bard manages to take down the dragon using the Black Arrow, striking in the one vulnerable spot on its scales. With the dragon slain, Bard is soon crowned as Lake-town’s savior and his name all across the land will be known as the dragon slayer. With the dragon gone, however, the amass of riches held in the Lonely Mountain is up for grabs and the mountain itself prime real estate for the more nefarious elements including Sauron who is gathering power and, if not for Galadriel (CATE BLANCHETT), most certainly would’ve killed Gandalf (IAN MCKELLEN) whom he had captured in the last chapter.
Meanwhile, inside the Lonely Mountain, the dwarves celebrate the dragon’s demise though Thorin (RICHARD ARMITAGE) is more concerned with not only reclaiming his throne, but retrieving the Arkenstone and it is immediately apparent to Bilbo (MARTIN FREEMAN) that Thorin has gone mad with greed to the point where he will not honor the promise he made to the people of Lake-town.
Make matters worse, the Elves, headed by Thrandall (LEE PACE), wants to retrieve a priceless heirloom and willing to go to war to do so (army #1) and in spite of Bard’s best efforts, is unable to sway Thorin even after Bilbo hands over the Arkenstone to Bard as a bargaining chip. However, Thorin isn’t without reinforcements as dwarf King Dain (BILLY CONNELLY) and his troops (army #2) are willing to take on the elves. But the dwarves and elves have bigger problems as evil forces are at work when the orcs (army #3) organize an attack to take control of the Lonely Mountain while also destroying any opposing forces including the humans who have formed their own little militia (army #4). The fifth army is a flock of crows bred for one purpose: WAR! What in evil elements Middle-earth isn’t bread for war?
There’s little doubt Peter Jackson has a great eye and a passion for subject, but the issues I had with An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug remain and is magnified even more so in The Battle of the Five Armies which draws plenty of comparisons with The Two Towers yet one thing remains prevalent and why The Hobbit trilogy pales in comparison to Lord of the Rings: we don’t really have many characters to care about save for Bilbo and Gandalf though neither are in immediate danger considering we know both will survive. We are then left with the dwarves who, except for Armitage’s Thorin, are either indistinguishable from the others so when, spoiler alert, one is killed, it did not nearly have the impact Jackson and company wanted in spite of Howard Shore’s sorrowful score playing over the death.
One other problem is, present in Desolation, was shoehorning in Legolas into the trilogy. His appearance not only felt unnatural but, and this is no slight to Orlando Bloom, but he looks older and worse yet, sounds older; it was a glaring issue that I had a hard time ignoring especially when his voice went down to a near Bale/Batman growl (ok, maybe not THAT bad).
The performances by the ensemble cast were OK, although I can’t say anyone stood out. Luke Evans performed valiantly as the human leader; Martin Freeman is seemingly MIA outside of a couple scenes bumped for the basically endless battle scenes; Armitage probably has the more nuanced character but what he’s given really is laughable and comes off as one-note; and as much as I like Evangeline Lilly, wow she has some bad line reads including one that’s supposed to be emotional and instead is a bit cringe-worthy and empty. You do get the LOTR regulars making cameos like Cate Blanchett who probably has the best scene of the entire Hobbit trilogy while Christopher Lee and Hugo Weaving make token appearances for the Sauron B-plot to tie into the LOTR.
As I said earlier, I can’t question Peter Jackson’s passion but it was a big mistake expanding what should have been a two-part movie into a trilogy all for the studios (Warner and MGM) to make a few more bucks as it was their final dip into the J.R.R. Tolkien well. With that in mind, The Battle of the Five Armies, in spite of impressive costumes and sets, and in some instances visual effects (others were a bit iffy), just never works on an emotional level and instead came across as a generic Hollywood action-fest.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
The 5-disc set is housed in an HD Keep Case and comes with a slip cover. Inside is a redemption code for the Digital HD and a standard DVD Copy.
Recruiting the Five Armies (11:39; HD) – We get to hear from those who served as extras dressed as Dwarves, Elves, Orcs and Men on the set for the epic battle scene.
Completing Middle-Earth (TRT 19:59):
A Six-Part Journey (9:54) – A look at the narrative threads and connections the filmmakers wove into The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies to make them one complete, cohesive story.
A Seventeen-Year Journey (8:59; HD) – This follows the 17 year journey the filmmakers undertook to bring Middle-Earth to the screen, not once, but twice.
The Last Goodbye (TRT 15:39):
Behind the Scenes Featurette (11:18; HD) – A look at the writing and recording of the final end credit song for the Middle-earth films, performed by LOTR alum Billy Boyd.
Music Video (4:21; HD) for “The Last Goodbye.”
Also included is Trailer #2 (2:33; HD) for The Battle of the Five Armies and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Extended Edition Trailer (1:34; HD).
2D VIDEO – 4.75/5 | 3D VIDEO – 5.0/5
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies marches onto Blu-ray presented in the film’s original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture, as was the case for the previous two installments, looks absolutely incredible with sharp detail levels, a nice blend of balanced colors that move more toward darker tones and there are no signs of aliasing, artifacts or other flaws. Now, thanks to high-def, you can certainly see Jackson’s use of digital color timing but even so, this is a fantastic HD transfer.
The 3D transfer meanwhile is just as flawless. The 3D presentation provides good depth and utilizes the battlefield landscape while avoiding the hokey “objects flying through the screen” and instead makes this an immersive experience. Colors are also quite good keeping it light enough where you can discern details even in the darkly lit shots.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
The film comes with a robust and resounding 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio track. Everything from Smaug’s roar and fire spray to the more nuanced moments come through very nicely through each channel. Dialogue levels are crisp and clear while the battle sequences help provide excellent depth making this a dynamic and demo-worthy lossless track.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ends one of the more mundane trilogies and although certainly the passion was there, Peter Jackson and company turned what should have been a 5 hour two-parter into three movies with unnecessary filler to go along with characters, new ones specifically, that were utterly forgettable. The Blu-ray set released by Warner has excellent audio and video and a decent selection of bonus features to tide over until the eventual extended edition release later this year.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.