The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies  (2014)    73/100

Rating : 73/100                                                                       144 Min        12A

Despite the rather bombastic advertising poster shown above for Peter Jackson’s conclusion to The Hobbit trilogy, it does not feature very much in the way of the rather fine example of dragonhood depicted, which, needless to say, was disappointing. Similarly, the methods by which the hero of Laketown, Bard (Luke Evans), attempts to defend it are PRE-POST-EROUS, in fact the humans throughout the film are easily the worst aspect and by far the least interesting. Who cares about Laketown? Let it BURN, they were asking for it anyway, dragons like to sleep a lot but we always wake up eventually. I do, however, like the central concept that Middle-earth hears on the grapevine that the dragon has finally awoken and left the doors to his gargantuan hoard of treasure agape, thrusting the titular five armies together to duke it out for the spoils – it makes sense, and it’s a good excuse for an almighty clash.

What it should have been, though, is the five armies versus me, I mean, Smaug – which might have been close to a fair fight. Through working together they could all have become better friends – the humans could have been regaled by the comedic wit of the dwarven leader Billy Connolly (he plays Dáin), the elves could have come to take pity on their inbred and fucked up cousins the orcs and offered them counselling, and the eagles, well, fuck the eagles the stupid little creatures, they can provide a tasty little snack for the dragon – the whole blood soaked affair is their fault anyway, ‘the eagles are coming!’, well they took their sweet time about it and best make the most of it because they’ll bugger off again in exactly two seconds anyway. All the while Bilbo runs off with both the Arkenstone and The Ring and secretly masturbates with them in a corner somewhere (we never really learn what the hell the Arkenstone actually is, only that’s it’s EVIL and essentially the MacGuffin that allows for lots of hammy acting surrounding its corruptive influence) – this all would have made for a better story, as would Bilbo then becoming the new dark lord.

As it is, all the characters come together for the big fight and everyone gets to do their bit and a commendable amount of creativity has gone into some of the choreography, although throughout the film there is the constant feeling that we are supposed to be more moved than we are – in fact comparing this to ‘The Return of the King’ (2003: the conclusion to Jackson’s earlier ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy) where there were many audible tears falling, only a single poor sobbing soul sounded around the auditorium for this and indeed no more than three people stayed for the credits at the end, compared to the truly unique sense of atmosphere generated at the screening of ‘The Return of the King’ where not a single person moved until the entirety of the credits had played through.

This is, nevertheless, a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, even if it still feels like a watered down and aimed at a slightly younger audience version of the previous one – though this is in fitting with the source material. I think overall the new technology used for the films with its super high frame rate was a huge mistake, with many parts looking tarnished and tawdry by its use, but it is possible that it will work better on the small screen. As with ‘An Unexpected Journey‘ and ‘The Desolation of Smaug‘ there are numerous tie-ins with the story in the rings trilogy which I think fans of Tolkien’s universe will appreciate (notwithstanding the silly looking ‘flashing Sauron’ sequences) and despite various criticisms of the liberties taken with the novel I believe the embellishments as a whole add more than they detract and are at least faithful in spirit.

Indeed, there is a huge wealth of material for further development so don’t be at all surprised if Middle-earth is readied for adaptation once more in the not too distant future. Above all else, it is the audience’s reintegration within a fantastic world where the devotion of the filmmakers, in particular Weta Workshop, really tells, together with enduring tales of friendship, adventure and courage that make the films work and will no doubt ensure their ability to be enjoyed many times over, continuing a long established Christmas tradition for many fans of both Tolkien and Jackson’s overarching and monumental works. Evoking the spirit the films were made in, Billy Boyd (who played Pippin in the Rings trilogy) wrote ‘The Last Goodbye’ and performs the song as it plays over the credits, a member of the family aiding The Hobbit to conclude its epic three year journey.

Some interesting background mythology regarding the lore and characters of Tolkien’s fantasy realm :

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