Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the terrifying Smaug from acquiring a kingdom of treasure and obliterating all of Middle-Earth.
With “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, Peter Jackson has most certainly come full circle. He capped off his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in 2003 and 11 years later, he has completed his new Hobbit trilogy. Fans of Tolkien and indeed the films in general, will undoubtedly enjoy themselves with this final installment in the series but for me, while I enjoyed the movie overall, I left the theater longing for something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I kept trying to figure out what I was feeling, or, more precisely, wasn’t feeling and then it dawned on me.
With “Return of the King,” our various heroes, from Frodo and Sam to Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, were all fighting for a cause: to end a terrible battle between good and evil where the entire world was at stake. With “The Battle of the Five Armies,” our heroes are fighting once more but not for a worthwhile cause, rather, for a mountain that is filled with so much gold and treasure, it could eliminate worldwide starvation and poverty. That was what I was having so much trouble pinpointing, the fact that by the end of the movie, its finale was devoid of honor and dignity and more about greed and selfishness.
Thorin (Richard Armitage), still determined to take his rightful place as King of the Lonely Mountain, finally succeeds but at the cost of many lives along the way. He slowly and gradually, succumbs to the dark power of the mountain, just like his grandfather did and becomes obsessed with finding the Arkenstone, an heirloom of Thorin’s dynasty which will cement his rightful place as King. He will stop at nothing to find it and threatens anybody who gets in his way.
Bilbo (Martin Freeman), who actually found and captured the stone in the previous movie while facing off against the ferocious dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), is afraid to give it to Thorin for fear that he will go insane and completely lose his mind and decides to leave the Lonely Mountain to go talk to Gandalf (Ian McKellen) about his predicament. When they try to return to Thorin and his men, war is declared but then both sides realize that the powers of darkness have been hard at work and they must fight alongside each other in order to survive.
Visually, the movie is breathtaking with Jackson and co. having outdone themselves, yet again but for a lot of the film, I felt like I was watching a video game on X-box 360. The fact that I saw the film in 3D didn’t actually help as personally, I could do without that particular gimmick but the images were so crisp and clean, it didn’t feel like a ‘real’ movie. Because Jackson shot the entire film on High Definition video and then transferred it to film, all the grain and film look usually accustomed with movies typically shot on celluloid, is gone, hence, the video look.
Initially, there was going to be one Hobbit movie but they added so much material which padded it out that it expanded into two movies which finally culminated in the studio agreeing to three feature-length films based on a book that barely had enough material to squeeze into one. And it shows. There are lengthy scenes of unnecessary character exposition and story development that just seem to drag on and it made me wonder just how much additional footage Mr. Jackson will add to his sure-fire ‘Director’s Cut’ blu-ray release of the movie next year.
While the extended versions of the original trilogy actually benefited those movies, here, unfortunately, Mr. Jackson should listen to the old adage that sometimes, less is more. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is absolutely beautiful to look at, accompanied by some truly spectacular special effects that will most certainly be nominated come Oscar time but everything else, sadly, becomes inconsequential to the glorious visual presentation on display.
In theaters December 17th
For more info about James visit his website at www.irishfilmcritic.com