The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

| December 19, 2014

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.  You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

The wonderment of the above quote rings true for so many people, for so many reasons, that it is universal.  Those words by Tolkien can be applied to any number of situations, but in this context they fit perfectly with Mr. Peter Jackson and his most recent (and for all intensive purposes, his final) film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  Sure, Jackson had a plan when he set out to revisit the lands of Middle Earth, but those plans ultimately changes when he found himself so deep in the story of The Hobbit the precursor to The Lord of the Rings that he had to expand the film into a trilogy.  That means that Jackson has now made six Middle Earth-focused films, approximately 19 hours worth of film.  With a case of red bull and a deep love for these movies, it can all be done in a 24-hour period of pure Tolkien bliss.

When looking at this final chapter for Jackson and Middle Earth, many moviegoers may expect to feel the same things they experienced over a decade ago when The Return of the King came out.  The problem with those high expectations is that this latest trilogy just does not carry the same weight as the original three films.  It is hard to go from a life-ending quest to destroy the one item that could cover all the land in darkness forever, to a quest about defeating a dragon.  Sure both sound epic and full of adventure, but there was so much more gravitas to the original that these new films just would not be able to match it.  That isn’t to say Jackson didn’t come close and he didn’t try, because all three films have been truly enjoyable to watch and done an excellent job developing this world that will inevitably add more depth to the original trilogy upon re-watching.

The Battle of the Five Armies starts out right in the heart of the action, almost as if it’s coming back from your regularly scheduled commercial break.  This is to be expected since Jackson decided late in the game to cut the film into a third piece.  The entire opening sequence handles the residual cliffhanger events from The Desolation of Smaug, quickly answering any burning (pardon the pun) questions anyone had as to the fate of Lake Town, Bard, or the fire-breather himself.  Luke Evans does a great job as Bard the Bowman (who later earns a different name, but no spoilers will be shared here), taking on the role of a smaller-scale Aaragorn in many aspects.  It is after Smaug’s flames have spread and the people must flee to the Lonely Mountain to seek refuge that the plot of the film really starts to make itself known.

Thorin now has the mountain to himself and with it all its treasures.  Thorin replaces the greed of Smaug with his own greed, as he has a “dragon sickness” fall upon him and becomes obsessed with keeping all of the treasure to himself.  This means that he won’t part with one coin, not even to re-pay the people of Lake Town for helping him and his men make it this far.  At one point, we even hear the chilling voice of Smaug come through Thorin’s mouth as he is mad with gold.  Through Thorin’s madness, a battle (presumably one consisting of five armies) is brewing outside his mountain halls.

Two armies of Orcs, an army of Elves, an army  of Dwarves, and the hoard of men from Lake Town who can still take up arms, are all appearing at separate times to join in one massive fight for control over the Lonely Mountain and the treasures within.  Each group has their own reason for wanting the mountain, as Gandalf explains multiple times in order to get the point across that this could lead to the events of The Lord of the Rings trilogy even faster if they don’t hold the mountain.  Jackson does a reasonably great job making the film not feel long at all (at a running time of 2 hours and 14 minutes) despite the fact that the entire movie is essentially the last few chapters of The Hobbit.

Martin Freeman almost takes a backseat in this film to all the other storylines going on around him, but whenever he does appear on camera he is just as remarkable as the first time we saw him don the big feet and shaggy hair.  Bilbo keeps his newly found treasure that he came upon in Gollum’s cave secret, but as we learn in the end, Gandalf knew he has some sort of magical ring.  What Thorin doesn’t know is that Bilbo also found a new treasure inside the Lonely Mountain during his conversation with Smaug the Tyrannical, something Thorin craves above all else; The Arkenstone.  Perhaps Bilbo Baggins truly is the burglar everyone hoped he would be.

At the end of it all, Jackson does a nice job tying up any loose ends and pointing all signs to the original trilogy.  Audiences even get a nice call out to Aaragorn, as Legolas’s father Thranduil tells him to go North to the Dunedain to seek a Ranger called Strider, Son of Arathorn. When Legolas asks for his name, Thranduil only tells him that it is for him to find out.  Sure it gets cheesy at the end, but it is such a fun connection for fans.  When all is said and done, and Bilbo makes his return journey (this time with a nice little chest of gold and some ceremonial souvenirs) we find our selves looking upon a familiar site, he was home. Just like that, there we are once again….in a hole in the ground where there lives a hobbit. The film wraps as the older trilogy begins, with an old wizard seeking to wish his beloved friend a happy birthday.

This review could go on and on, because like most fans, I just don’t want it to end.  There are too many thoughts and too much love for these films that no ending would be satisfying enough.  I want to continue to watch the tales of Middle Earth be portrayed on-screen, but perhaps like Bilbo’s journey it is time to come to an end.  Take this final piece of The Hobbit puzzle and cherish it for what it is.  It is not The Return of the King, but it is the crowning jewel of this latest trilogy.  Bringing about character development for everyone and battle sequences that could very well rival anything in his original three, Jackson goes out with a bang.  Much like Billy Boyd (Pippin) sings in the final credits song, this was Jackson’s “Last Goodbye.”  One thing important to note is that at the end of this trilogy, we do not get a “The End,” because in Jackson’s eyes he wrote his end 11 years ago.  This is simply a bridge to the rest of the story.  Just as Bilbo says goodbye to his dwarf companions, and eventually to Gandalf for awhile, we too must look at these films and what Jackson has created and bid them all a very fond farewell.

About the Author:

Mike works during the day in beautiful downtown Chicago as a Digital Sales Campaign Specialist and fights crime by night, stopping those who prey on the weak and the help-- no, he just watches movies. A lot of movies. Follow him on Twitter: @Mike_DaltonNAF
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