The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Posted by Joel Copling on December 15, 2014

Is this it? The marketing material, irrelevant to the big picture though it is, touts "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" as the "defining chapter" of the entire saga. Indeed, the film's final focus is on wrapping up the establishment of 2012's solid but bloated "An Unexpected Journey" and the continuation of 2013's draggy, disappointing "The Desolation of Smaug" and tying up the lead-in plot points that hint at what is to come with co-writer/director Peter Jackson's miraculous "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The effort is a valiant one--not least because it is a full quarter-hour shorter than the earlier installments--but ultimately adds up to little but visual noise. Emotion is there as we reach a touching denouement and quite literal bridge to 2001's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," but it's a case of too little, too late.

Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch, still in top motion-capture form) is currently desolating Laketown, but he won't be a threat for long thanks to the heroic Bard (Luke Evans, who has consistently felt inconsequential in this role). Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman--and, in the film's denouement, Ian Holm one final time), meanwhile, has cause worry about dwarf king Thorin's (Richard Armitage) newfound attachment to the Arkenstone, his birthright jewel and peak of the wealth left to him and his people. The stone poisons Thorin's mind, and so the film becomes a study (a rather weak one) of what ultimately drives Thorin to declaring war with the elves (led by Lee Pace's intimidating Thranduil), Orcs, and other, more anonymous types. It is, indeed, a battle of five armies, even if two or three of them are after-thoughts.

The battle itself is the type of exhausting nonsense typical of a director far beneath Peter Jackson's abilities (For proof, compare this glorified video-game cutscene to the dirty, grimy, messy, gloriously tension-filled battle at Pelennor Fields in 2003's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"). For 45 minutes, the sequence simply drags, not really finding its own rhythm until near the end with a pair of scenes involving creative hand-to-hand combat (Watch for a particularly physics-defying feat courtesy of Legolas). The denouement is a touching sentiment, sure, but by then, there is--and it is sad to type this--little reason to care about having revisited the once-intriguing Middle Earth. "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" is the occasionally diverting, fleet-footed whimper with which this series has ended.

Film Information

Martin Freeman (Younger Bilbo Baggins), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel), Lee Pace (Thranduil), Luke Evans (Bard), Aidan Turner (Kili), Ken Stott (Balin), James Nesbitt (Bofur), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), Dean O'Gorman (Fili), Peter Hambleton (Gloin), Adam Brown (Ori), William Kircher (Bifur), Jed Brophy (Nori), Stephen Hunter (Bombur), John Bell (Bain), Mark Hadlow (Dori), John Callen (Oin), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug/Necromancer), Billy Connolly (Dain), Stephen Fry (Master of Laketown), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Christopher Lee (Saruman), Sylvester McCoy (Radagast), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Ian Holm (Older Bilbo Baggins).

Directed by Peter Jackson and written by Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo Del Toro, based on the novel "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Rated PG-13 (extended intense fantasy action violence, frightening images).

144 minutes.

Released on December 17, 2014.