Peter Jackson’s latest film – the concluding movie to The Hobbit franchise – showcases the promise of a cool story line that neatly ties together the abundance of subplots splattered throughout the first two movies. The continual subplots and over-the-top action has been a little dizzying to say the least, but once The Hobbit book wraps up in the film – and this happens really quick – it paves the way to a surprisingly entertaining time in the CG-filled fantasy world.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies abruptly starts off where the second film (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) left off. Our group of rowdy but jovial dwarves – most of who’s names I will never be able to remember – are idly standing around with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as the terrifying dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) rains all sorts of fire on the poor Laketown. If you were a person expecting some incredibly drawn-out conclusion to the Hobbit book story in this movie, prepared to be disappointed. It all wraps up within the first 15 minutes, leaving a majority of the movie’s running time to Peter Jackson and company’s take on J.R.R. Tolkien’s additional written material sans-Hobbit. Not-so-surprisingly enough, Biblo still ends up taking a major back seat to every other creature that isn’t a hobbit for the remainder of the film.
A lot of this movie deals with, you guessed it, the battle of the five armies. Believe the hype when people say that around the last 45 minutes the movie focuses solely on the battle, because that’s all it is. Just an ongoing flood of battle after battle, filling up your visual sense up until the last ten minutes of the film. The camera is weaving in and out of various fighting scenes, giving viewers a wide array of fantastical shots of elves, humans and orcs fighting for their chance to claim Erebor’s vast treasures. The ongoing battle is hands down the most entertaining part about the movie for a couple different reasons. The way some of the big fight scenes play out between Jackson’s camera movement, along with a bunch of cool CG, makes it really visually stimulating for all. Since CG is part of the discussion right now, it’s time to talk about one small thing that bothered me a little bit. At one point during the battle Thorin’s (Richard Armitage) relative Dain (Billy Connolly) charges in with an awesome dwarf army, but Dain looked a little out of place. Those involved ended up resorting to placing Connolly in a motion capture suit, which means that Dain looked like an odd video game character.
The majority of the story line deals with various creatures trying to take hold of Erebor as their own, along with the gold inside it, but ultimately shows that greed corrupts all. It takes the biggest hold on Thorin as he weaves in and out of this almost strange trance, but the plot is a little weak. There’s not much going on under the surface, and it’s decent at best. It’s used more as a placeholder cautionary tale, shrug your shoulders kind of story line to get us from the end of The Hobbit story to this great battle. Since the third film is a precursor to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, some slightly unnecessary hints placed within the latter half of this film. It’s not really subtle, but if it were placed in font it would be in big, bold letters. We already know what happens there. There’s no need to continually remind viewers about it.
At least some of the cast keeps the entertainment factor up, though it’s still continually disappointing to see Martin Freeman being so underused in The Hobbit movies with his almost minimal role. Armitage is tapping into his inner Oscar the Grouch with how he plays out Thorin’s attitude towards the rest of his brethren. Meanwhile Evangeline Lilly easily reflects pain through her eyes, playing the conflicted Tauriel who struggles with her feelings for a dwarf with an incredible charisma score. Then there’s Orlando Bloom as Legolas and Ian McKellen as Gandalf who are just there… that’s it. A lot of the actors come off as if they’re basically twiddling their thumbs, whistling to themselves and hoping that the movie’s going to wrap soon so they can get out of their fantasy garb. When there isn’t much material on the script for them to expand on, it’s difficult to really do much with your character. But one of those that doesn’t fall into that category is Luke Evans as the Bard. Hopefully Evans gets more screen time in the future for his talent, because he’s got a lot that shines in this particular installment.
There’s no shortage of visual effects in the third movie, which is to be expected since it is centered around a massive battle. At the same time there’s an exuberant amount of CG goodness that’ll be a little dizzying to watch after awhile, especially if you’re wearing 3D glasses. Once again these movies prove that there’s no need to watch the film in 3D, unless you want to pay a few dollars extra for some specialty Hobbit-themed glasses that you’ll only use once. Try to save yourself a couple bucks and don’t go down that dark road.
The action scenes towards the latter half of the film were ultimately more enjoyable than the previous two movies, and maybe that’s because they ejected the almost slapstick humor that was running rampant. Peter Jackson and company decided to just make a cold stone Dungeons and Dragons-like encounter between the multiple armies, and that’s super fun for me to watch. But for the rest of you who aren’t well-versed in that line of tabletop gaming, the various battles are still a thrilling to watch. The cast is fairly enjoyable, the plot isn’t that great but at least it’s got some popcorn-munching action and impressive effects. I’ll also give an extra round of applause to the always stellar costume department whose work on the wood elves alone looks magnificent. Seriously, where can I get my hands on some of their garb? Because I would cosplay at the next convention I attend in a heartbeat if I had any of those outfits.
Bonus; this movie is the shortest in the Hobbit trilogy, which is great news for people who don’t wish to sit through a nearly 3 hour film.