“Will you follow me, one last time?” said Thorin to his dwarves.
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There and back again. Been 13 years since the first time Peter Jackson dwelt in Middle-Earth with his The Lord of the Rings trilogy and, now, it goes to another farewell to the journey. After five films in two trilogies adapted from a series of books and a light book, a double finale should be defining and should not be disappointing. When The Battle of The Five Armies, which should bear its initial title There and Back Again, ends the trilogy once and for all, what could we expect?
Immediately following the biggest cliffhanger in the end of The Desolation of Smaug, The Battle of Five Armies kicks off with Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) soars through the sky and rains the Lake Town with fire breath forcing Bard (Luke Evans) to commit his act of valor. Meanwhile, Thorin (Richard Armitage) now suffers from “dragon-sickness” ignoring words from Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and his fellow dwarves and disavowing his words to Bard and people of Lake Town.
In the meantime, King Thranduil (Lee Pace) leads his Elves to Lonely Mountain to claim what is theirs; to their surprise, Azog the Defiler also marches with his Orc armies to there. Yet, that’s not all, soon, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) learns that Bolg also gathers army of Orcs from the fort of Gundabad; and Thorin summons reinforcements from his kin. Those confrontations lead to the titular battle, a final clash to claim the hold of the mountain…
Away from Lonely Mountain, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) gets assisted by the White Council—Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Saruman (Christopher Lee)—with Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) to flee from Dol Guldur, where the Necromancer holds him.
In the end, The Battle of The Five Armies fulfills the duty, not just to end the titular Hobbit trilogy, but also to link this trilogy to LOTR trilogy. The expectation is high, but the movie finds a way to satisfy those who expect—not in a spectacular, pretentious way, but in a modest way, perhaps a little underwhelming. To keep in mind, it’s not The Lord of the Rings and it’s not adapted from a three-volume book; the structure might be similar, but the scale and the urgency is completely different. Therefore, dramatizing the ultimate battle in the book into a 2-hour movie is a decent way to end a saga without ruining it.
Speaking of the size of the book, for the first time, I notice that The Desolation of Smaug might be the strongest of the trilogy for it’s the root of inventions in The Hobbit trilogy. The most notable invention is the re-summon of Legolas and invention of Tauriel along with their “love triangle” to make the trilogy dense. Their significance to the “grand design” is unnoticeable, but they work great to fill the gaps without changing their fate. Now, their emergence is understandable—for non-purist—to compensate the lack of conflicts in The Hobbit.
What makes The Battle of The Five Armies only a modest finale, and not a grand one is the lack of depth for a finale. In sum, it only serves the titular battle as the main substance and nothing else as the Smaug arc ends briefly then the Necromancer arc is so great it’s little. With a greed-laden battle lasts for two-third of the movie duration, what we see is nothing but war in many manner—the scale might be the same as the battle of Pelennor fields—only this time, everything feels so repetitive.
Innovations, that’s what The Battle of The Five Armies lacks of. Through the repetitive battle, there’s barely battle innovations; although the battle entangles ample of different creatures with different way of fighting and choreographed with interesting CGI, all the battles feel the same. You cannot even find a distinctive feature like the heart-pumping barrel scene in The Desolation of Smaug or the Oliphant killing in The Return of the King. Nevertheless, you cannot just ignore hours of war in Middle-Earth, can’t you?
One more reason, why people should watch this movie. The third act, that’s the reason. After vicious hours of battling orcs, after a whole journey expanded into 3 movies, Peter Jackson decides to end it humbly. After a series of events focusing on Thorin and his conflicts, the third act eventually returns the focus back to the titular hobbit and ends on the right time—a most perfect time to say good bye to Middle-Earth once again.
VERDICT: The Battle of The Five Armies is a decent defining chapter to The Hobbit Trilogy and mostly to the Middle-Earth saga. It ends the whole thing not in a spectacular, pretentious way, but in a modest way, perhaps a little underwhelming. Yet, with the unknown future of Silmarillion project, you don’t want to miss the farewell to Middle-Earth, right?
The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies (2014)
Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Adaptation Directed by: Peter Jackson Written by: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro based on a novel by J.R.R. Tolkien Starred by: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Sylvester McCoy Running Time: 144 mins Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images