The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, 2014.
Directed by Peter Jackson.
Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangaline Lilly, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry, Mikael Persbrandt, Ian Holm, Sylvester McCoy, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves have reclaimed the mountain of Erebor from the evil dragon Smaug and must now struggle to protect the treasure they fought to recover. Dwarves, Elves and Men must put aside their differences when faced with a dangerous common enemy.
The final expedition into Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth picks up right where the last film left off, with Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) unleashing his fury on the innocent settlement of Laketown after a climatic fight between the dwarves and the ill-tempered reptile at the end of the last film. The confrontation between Smaug and Laketown’s unsung hero Bard (Luke Evans) could have been a fitting ending to the second film, but instead makes for an action packed start to the trilogy’s final instalment, a polar opposite to the light-hearted songs which appear in the beginning of An Unexpected Journey.
As Laketown is bathed in fire the story returns to Bilbo and the dwarves, where it seems there has been some intriguing albeit slightly distressing character development. As the dwarves reclaim the kingdom of Erebor Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) finds himself battling a sickness which threatens to cloud his sanity and tear apart the company. Bard, accompanied by a host of woodland elves try to reason with Thorin, reminding him of his promise to share his wealth with Laketown, but consumed by his greed he ignores Bard’s plea. Despite the best efforts of the good-natured Bilbo (Martin Freeman) it seems the stubbornness of Dwarves will lead to all-out war between the rival races of Men, Elves and Dwarves.
Unsurprisingly this film amounts to more than two hours of negotiations and it doesn’t take long for the talking to escalate into drawn swords and notched arrows. A standoff ensues, with elves and men on one side and a host of Dwarves armed to the teeth on the other. I could hardly contain my excitement at the thought of seeing an army of Dwarves in all their big bearded, fully armoured glory and it’s safe to say I was far from disappointed. Luckily, before any needless blood can be spilt a common enemy brings the bickering races together, as well as a final realisation of the movie’s title, The Battle of the Five Armies.
Not only does the film include an immense clash of forces only rivaled by the epic closing moments of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, it also brings to life a variety of story twists and sub plots. We see more of Gandalf’s peril in the dark peaks of Dol Duldor as well as more progress in the conflicting relationships between Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and a pre Urak-hai Saruman (Christopher Lee). There is also a controversial return to the Hollywood concocted love triangle between Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), handsome dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) which for all its disloyalty to the book and lack of any real purpose still adds a dash of extra emotion for the more soppy Hobbit fans. Thankfully, it is easily forgotten amidst a final fight sequence featuring enough axe wielding, orc slaughtering, giant eagle riding and spectacular CGI to send even the most hard to please Tolkien fans strolling out of the cinema grinning ear to ear.
All in all The Hobbit Trilogy effortlessly brings to life a much-loved childhood story. The Battle of Five Armies expertly captures the themes of love, death, friendship and loyalty all the while creating an inexhaustible array of likeable and engaging characters. Despite its few follies and slight disregard for its flawless source material I for one am sad to see the big screen journeys into the mystical and dreamlike world of Middle-earth come to completion. Thanks Peter Jackson, it was one hell of an adventure.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★