The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

In a word: Fitting

Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) and dwarven king Dain (Billy Connolly) prepare for war. PICTURE: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

"This is a movie for the fans – of either the book or previous films – and for them it should prove a fitting conclusion to the tales, wrapping everything up nicely and setting the scene for the tale which follows in Lord of the Rings."

The conclusion to the rather lengthy Hobbit trilogy (which, of course, is a prequel to the equally long Lord of the Rings trilogy), The Battle of the Five Armies starts with a bang (those who have watched the previous film will recall is closed with the image of Smaug the dragon flying toward Laketown) and doesn’t let up for all its two-and-a-half hour length.

 

As the title might suggest, there’s carnage aplenty here as the various “good guys”of Middle Earth - men, dwarves and elves - take issue with each other as well as their common foe, the orcs and goblins under the sway of the Dark Lord Sauron.


As with the two films before it, director Peter Jackson has here made much of a story that JRR Tolkien only took a much more limited number of pages to tell. While purists may therefore find some scenes hard to swallow, in general this is a tale told in the same spirit of the original, albeit with the looming backdrop of the bigger story of The Lord of the Rings behind it - a darkening shadow which wasn’t as evident in the book.


This is a movie for the fans – of either the book or previous films – and for them it should prove a fitting conclusion to the tales, wrapping everything up nicely and setting the scene for the tale which follows in The Lord of the Rings. Those looking for a one-off fantasy film, on the other hand, may feel a little short-changed – but then, it wasn’t really made for them.

The acting remains a strength of this film series (how many fantasy films have been brought down by wooden performances?) - Martin Freeman reprises his role as the younger Bilbo Baggins, Richard Armitage returns as the dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield, Evangeline Lilly as somewhat rebellious elfin maiden, Tauriel, and Luke Evans plays the part of Bard with aplomb while Benedict Cumberbatch once again voices the dragon Smaug and newcomer Billy Connolly takes on the role of dwarven leader Dain. They're joined by many old favorities like Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Cate Blanchett (Lady Galadriel) and Christopher Lee (Saruman).


Visually, this movie is as stunning as ever – seeing Tolkien’s world recreated in such Technicolor detail has ever been a highlight for this reviewer - and, as was the case with the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, this is matched by an alternatively beautiful and haunting musical score.


There is a hint of weariness about the film – and to be fair, the story could probably could have been wrapped up in two, with much of the time in this last film, spent on the battle itself – but all in all, those who have enjoyed the saga to date won’t want to miss it. We'll miss this franchise - a highlight of Boxing Day releases for the past few years - but it was time to bring it to an end.