REVIEW: “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”

HOBBIT POSTER

The biggest question swirling around Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy has been centered around the amount of content. Is there enough of it in J.R.R. Tolkien’s book to warrant three Jackson-sized films? That question has lingered in the back of my mind as I’ve watched each of the ‘Hobbit’ movies. The first two films sometimes struggled to suitably fill their time yet they managed to keep me engaged. Now we have Peter Jackson’s third ‘Hobbit’ film and final trip to Middle Earth. It’s “The Battle of the Five Armies” and I can see where people would say it is stretched too thin.

But to the question – Could “The Hobbit” have been adapted into two movies instead of three? I think the essential material could have definitely been covered in two installments. But at the same time “The Battle of the Five Armies” actually manages its time better than the previous films. Essentially it’s the trilogy’s big action-packed ending. The vast majority of the film is spent building up the climactic battle and then letting go with an epic-sized blow out. I had fun with it and it was far from the snoozefest I feared it would be.

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The film picks up exactly where the last one left off. There is no time jump. There is no setup. Smaug the dragon is loose and attacks Laketown. Bard (Luke Evans) guides the displaced people to safety and becomes their de facto leader. Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his band of dwarves have taken back The Lonely Mountain and its immense deposits of gold and riches. Problem is Thorin has gone mad with what is called “Dragon Sickness” and refuses to share his new-found wealth with Bard so that the people of Laketown can rebuild.

Then you have Thranduil (Lee Pace) and his elf army who come to the mountain to claim a white diamond necklace from the treasure. A blinded Thorin refuses and would rather fight than give up one piece of the mountain’s riches. With war about to break out between elves, dwarves, and humans, Gandolf arrives bearing news of a massive Orc army coming to take the mountain. The question becomes can they put aside their differences and come together to fight a much bigger and more deadly threat?

It’s hard to call this film a standard sequel considering the way it’s structured. It is much more of a direct continuation and I simply can’t objectively look at it as a stand-alone movie. It’s impossible to separate it from the previous film, and anyone watching this one without seeing part two will undoubtedly have a lesser experience. But as a follower of the series I think the film does a good job of picking up the story and bringing it to a conclusion. The performances are strong and steady and the effects are simply incredible. The action-fueled final hour features some great sword play and a cool host of creatures.

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But let’s face it, the series has several things working against it. It’s almost impossible to keep from comparing it to the superior “The Lord of the Rings”. First let’s take the characters. I love Bilbo, Thorin, and Gandalf, but the secondary characters, while good, aren’t up to those in LotR. Then you have the big conclusion itself. This big sprawling final battle is extremely cool, but it carries almost no connection to the previous two films. In LotR the buildup to the big finale started in the first film. Everything worked towards that epic point. In this film the battle doesn’t carry near as much weight, and I wasn’t left feeling quite as satisfied. But is it really fair to compare this film to LotR? I don’t have a good answer to that.

I do think this is a stronger film than some give it credit for. It’s a tighter and more focused movie and runs 20 minutes shorter than either of the first two Hobbit films. More importantly it feels in tune with the previous movies and offers us an exciting and fitting conclusion filled with great action and emotion. Could the series have been better as a whole? It probably could. But I find it hard to point a finger at this film as the reason for that. Narratively speaking this may be the best film of the three. It just had the difficult task of also wrapping everything up. It certainly did that well enough for me.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

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29 thoughts on “REVIEW: “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”

    • LOL. I bet you’re right. But to be perfectly honest, I really didn’t have a problem with this trilogy as a whole. I definitely agree that it could be cut to two films, but I still enjoyed them. Perhaps I just love this entire world and that has somewhat influenced my perspective.

      • I have a weird relationship with the Hobbit trilogy. It really didn’t bother me even though I recognize its flaws. I had fun with this particular installment but it doesn’t even remotely feel like a movie that can stand on its own.

      • Yeah I certainly don’t hate the trilogy either. I could write book on how many things I would’ve tweaked to make it that much better, but I’m fining to pay to see every installment in theatres (and New Line knew that). However, the idea of a well edited, more tightly paced Hobbit just sounds too appealing to me, and digital technology in the hands of fans provides that opportunity.

  1. Glad you got more out of it than I did. I felt the Smaug bit should have been in the second movie as it took all the momentum out of the film once it was finished. And the battle just didn’t feel important, no high stakes and I was missing a resolution for it. Plus all the references to Lord of the Rings weren’t necessary for me.

    • This film is so different than the others. It’s hard to put up a real good defense for it because I can see where a lot of the negativity is coming from. For me the Smaug bit worked good because it set up the desperation of the displaced people.

    • …(sorry I didn’t mean to send that incomplete). I definitely see what you mean about the end battle and I mention that in the review. As for the LotR references, I noticed them but it didn’t seem to be as many as in the last film. Either way they just didn’t bother me that much.

      • I’ve seen people compare this trilogy with the Start Wars prequels although I think that’s going a bit too far…. I had my enjoyment out of these films, especially the second one, but these aren’t movies I plan on revisiting.

      • That’s completely fair. I don’t know about that comparison but I was a bit different. I did enjoy the Star Wars prequels even though they were nowhere close to the original trilogy in terms of quality. I think I will view The Hobbit the same way. I had fun with it but it’s nowhere near as good as The Lord of the Rings.

  2. Pretty much agree with you totally here Keith. I think some people had decided in advance to hate this trilogy in advance and that has really come out in the reception for this film. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of quibbles to be had with the approach and the films themselves. The first was actually my least favourite film of 2013. But I have really enjoyed the final two and this is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

    • I was a very lukewarm on the first film after I left the theater. It did grow on me a little bit after a second viewing. But I really liked the second film and it’s practically impossible to separate this one from it. Like you said there are definite quibbles to be had, but overall I had fun with the trilogy.

  3. I am TOTALLY with you in that there was way less at stake with this battle like there was with the ending battle in LOTR. For me, these Hobbit movies really don’t hold up to the LOTR films, although there are moments in each of the films where I’m like, “oh yeah, I remember feeling like this when I watched LOTR.”

    Overall, I thought this was the strongest of the Hobbit films, both in running time and in narrative. It was the most interesting film of the three (for me). I would agree that the movie is better than a lot of people have credited it. The acting and the special effects really make it what it is. The resurgence of Howard Shore’s themes from the LOTR films nicely tie the two franchises, even if The Hobbit films fail to do that in many other aspects.

    Great review, nice points, Keith!

    • Thanks so much. Nice to hear some of the same thoughts as mine. Its really hard to argue with those who struggled with it. It’s just so different and inseparable from the second movie.

  4. Hey Keith! Y’know, even though I was initially fine w/ splitting this into three films, this final film was a bit of a disappointment to me. I just found it boring and overlong even though it’s actually the shortest of the three. I do love Bilbo, Thorin, and Gandalf too, but I wish PJ had focused more on them (or at least Thorin & Bilbo) instead of trying to incorporate so many supporting characters who aren’t half as interesting as those in LOTR. I made a comment in my review that I cried when Boromir met his end and I still get teary-eyed thinking about that scene but I feel nothing about most of the tertiary characters here. In fact, that love triangle of Kili, Legolas, and Tauriel is just plain lame and annoying.

    • While I obviously like this one more than you, you bring up some strong points that are impossible to argue against.

      Your reference to the Boromir scene is a great one. I won’t spoil this for others but a key loss we get in this film was emotional to me. But it was nothing compared to Boromir’s death. That was a scene full of emotion and every ounce of it was earned. Boromir’s death is still one of the best of the original trilogy. This film didn’t come close to it.

      This is such an odd film to review because it is impossible to separate it from the previous film. I liked it for what it was. One thing we both absolutely agree on – The Hobbit in no Lord of the Rings.

    • Just temper your expectations a bit. It is hard to view it as a stand alone film. It is undeniable part of the last film. But looking at it from that perspective enhanced my enjoyment. I get why some didn’t go for it. Me, I had a lot of fun.

  5. “The first two films sometimes struggled to suitably fill their time yet they managed to keep me engaged.” — So, I totally read this as “to keep me enraged.” Lol! That was a surprise. I went back and re-read through and sure enough, what you actually wrote made more sense.

    I’ve never bought into even The Lord of the Rings. I’m not sure these kinds of fantasy adventures are my thing, b/c I can appreciate the massive splendor Jackson put out in these things, but I just can’t get interested I’m afraid. ‘The Hobbit,’ even less so. Though it’s great to see a positive review for this gigantic concluding chapter. 🙂

    • If you didn’t care for The Lord of the Rings I doubt The Hobbit films would do anything for you. LotR was considerably better.

      As for the “enraged” bit, I’ve finished two or three reviews over the last few days where that word would definitely apply! LOL

  6. Pingback: 3rd Annual Random Movie Awards | Keith & the Movies

  7. Having read your review, I came to the same conclusions. The Hobbit just wasn’t meant to be stretched out over three movies, and it shows. They had to reach into the LOTR appendices to try and tie The Hobbit movies to the LOTR trilogy, and while some of it worked, some of it didn’t. I know people had issues with Tauriel and Legolas, but I didn’t. Getting back to the whole 3 movies thing: Two 3.5 hour movies would have sufficed. There’s a lot of fluff in The Hobbit that could have been taken out and still kept the spirit of the book intact. I honestly expected a two movie deal with The Hobbit, it made perfect sense, even though each book in the LOTR trilogy got a movie, but that’s neither here nor there. I love The Hobbit movies for a lot of reasons, but there are a lot of issues that keep The Hobbit from reaching a higher level. None of the movies were snoozefests, but the pacing could have been tighter. Overall, though, The Hobbit is still fantastic, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever get to see another film set in Middle-Earth, which is unfortunate. I think Chris Tolkien needs to pull his head out of his butt and let the fans decide if they want to see more movies about Middle-Earth. There’s a ton of stories to be told. Especially during the First Age.

    • Some really good thoughts. I think one thing that made it work for me is that I just love spending time in that world and Jackson did such an amazing job bringing it to life. Unfortunately the movie does feel light. I think two 3 1/2 hour movies would’ve been just right.

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