To do a “Lucas Prequel” is to have an epic movie series that “begins” with the sequels. Then based on the success of the series, to go back and film the earlier films. Because the first films were so awesome, the follow up may not live up to the hype and can damage the entire franchise.
Peter Jackson didn’t “Lucas” Middle Earth.
Sure, there was a small fear that this might have happened. Keep in mind, he was making three moves based on a children’s book that was only 125 pages long (plus the appendixes from the Lord of The Rings books). The Unexpected Journey had its moments: an overuse of CGI for the villains, too many underdeveloped heroes, and it didn’t seem “epic” enough in comparison the Lord of The Rings trilogy. After all, the Hobbit was about a dozen Dwarves wanting to reclaim their gold treasure from a greedy dragon, and Lord of The Rings was a quest to destroy absolute evil. We did get to see Gollum, and the “riddles in the dark” was fantastic.
The Desolation of Smaug was an improvement. We finally got to see the dragon and see what evil he was capable of. We also got to see Bilbo play the anti-warrior hero. He didn’t have any battle skills, but he was great as a “burglar,” and using the One Ring when needed to help his companions. We also began to see the effect the ring had on his psyche. This was an improvement from the previous film.
We now have The Battle of Five Armies. We return to large-scale epic battles, good vs evil, temptation of jewels, and great filmmaking.
The film picks up literally after the end of Desolation of Smaug with the dragon Smaug laying waste to Lake-town. Smaug is punishing the humans who helped the Dwarves come to face him at the Lonely Mountain. When Smaug was introduced in the previous movie he was a sly villain, almost like The Joker from the Dark Knight trilogy. He was eager to enter a game of words and boasts. His dialogue with Bilbo was great. In this film, he is an uncaged rage monster. He barely speaks in the film, because most of the time he is simply laying waste to Lake-town and causing destruction for all the inhabitants there. It’s also here where Bard is able to become the hero for Lake-town when facing the dragon.
In the aftermath of the dragon’s wrath, Lake-town are a scattered people, much like the Dwarves were when Smaug claimed their home. The people of Lake-town go to the Lonely Mountain for refuge as well as payment for helping the Dwarves. This is where we meet the villain of the film: Thorin.
That’s right: the would-be Dwarf king Thorin is the villain for most of the film. Like his grandfather, he is overcome with “dragon sickness” and his lust for the throne and gold has blinded him to everything else. He reneges on his promise to Lake-town, and the Elves also want a piece of the now unguarded treasure and so war has become inevitable.
Meanwhile Gandalf was last seen as a captive of the newly revealed Sauron and his Orc army. Although they are marching on to war as well, Gandalf is still prisoner in their castle. This leads to an awesome rescue attempt by The White Council, and a great battle against the Ringwraiths and a confrontation against Sauron himself. See this movie in 3D just for that scene alone!
Legolas (our favorite acrobatic Elf), and Tauriel go on their own adventure to see what is going on at another Orc castle.
As everyone prepares for War, Bilbo becomes the voice of reason trying to get through to Thorin (with not much success). After all, what can 13 Dwarves and one Hobbit do against a host of Elves and Men wanting some of their treasure? A newly freed Gandalf also tries to reason with all parties explaining to them that there is a greater enemy marching towards them. Not only do the Orc want the gold, but they want the city because of its tactical advantage. Thorin does not budge to any advice and War has begun. With all the commotion, an Army of Dwarves have also come to defend their home for Thorin as well. Just as all parties are ready to come to blows, the Orc army emerges.
The battles were filmed in such a great way. In Return of The King the audience is treated to a vast epic battle. In The Two Towers, the audience is treated to a battle that focuses mainly on the three fellowship members participating in it. In this movie we have a vast epic battle that also provides the perspective of the heroes it affects. The battles in this actually feel like strategic battles. In the original trilogy the battles were very much “in motion.” In this one, there is an Orc general who sends his armies in waves and strategically is planning on taking down the heroes lines and opening up the battlefield in a carefully thought out manner. This makes it actually feel “real.” The stakes are high as well during these battles and there is a great deal of tension throughout. The one on one fight scenes for major characters really get the audience emotionally involved!
The only complaint of the film would be that Bilbo plays second-note in his own story. He spends just about all of the battle on the sideline, so it’s hard to determine if he is the hero or Thorin. Bilbo is the moral hero here, but he displayed more heroics in the previous films.
Upon the end of the battle, we end our journey in Middle Earth. Hopefully not the last: please get the rights to The Silmarillion Peter Jackson!! There were some great tie-ins to the original Lord of The Rings trilogy that didn't come across as "cheesy" as was done in the Star Wars prequels. This was a great conclusion to The Hobbit trilogy.