The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies | Review | Film

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesIt all comes down to this. With the Tolkien estate calling time on further films (for now), The Battle of the Five Armies, or BOFA as it shall henceforth be known, is our final visit to Middle Earth.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesWith such expectations, you would be forgiven for hoping for an exciting climax which raises the bar for the series, or at least makes it shuffle in its seat a little. Instead, even the promised spectacle of seeing five armies battle it out leaves us wanting more (plus, I’m concerned that I only count four…)

Matching the standards set by The Lord of the Rings in the first place is already a colossal task of course, Return of the King alone took home 11 Oscars and sits at #9 on the IMDb top 250 films of all time. But they wanted to go back to Middle Earth, and so did we, and so off we went on Bilbo’s quest.

Looking back at the first installment, there was much promise. There was a memorable song (and, admittedly, an annoying song), good actors and after a while away from Tolkien’s fantasy-verse, we were keen to dive back in. Unfortunately the sad fact is that the story doesn’t suit film as well as LOTR did.

The fellowship’s quest can be explained in a sentence – take the ring of power to Morder to destroy it and save Middle Earth. In The Hobbit though, it gets complicated, who is the main character? Who is the main villain? Why on Earth have they made Billy Connolly into a dwarf using entirely CGI?

The song doesn’t remain the same

Can you count five armies? By our count there's four.
Can you count five armies? By our count there’s four.

Thankfully in BOFA the story is simplified quickly. Smaug, though fantastic, is quickly pushed aside, as is the largely unnecessary Sauron sub-plot, a story in itself so dripping with foreboding that even those unfamiliar with LOTR at all will cry fowl immediately.

Once things get going it’s enjoyable, the dwarves have their home back at last, but what of Bard and the people of Laketown? Thanks to some stubbornness from Thorin a conflict springs up where there needn’t be one, but magic is the cause and so he is powerless to prevent it. This is a shame as Thorin was always the most fleshed-out of the dwarves and for much of the film ends up coming off as a stubborn teenager.

The fellowship of the Hobbit

How many can you name from memory, be honest...
How many can you name from memory, be honest…

The fact that even now the names of the fifteen dwarves, let alone their personalities, are too hard to remember is something no other film could get away with – at least seven of those dwarves would be on the cutting room floor. The few we do recall though, do their job well, and credit to those actors for standing out from the crowd.

While sweeping landscape shots of New Zealand never get old, the scale of the film isn’t quite as impressive as Return of the King and the use of slow-motion in particular can very jarring, on more than one occasion it grabs the audience out of the action completely, whereas in ROTK it is seamless.

A half-a-man show

Martin Freeman undoubtedly makes an excellent Bilbo Baggins
Martin Freeman undoubtedly makes an excellent Bilbo Baggins

But what of the Hobbit himself? Martin Freeman has always been the perfect casting for this role, but, like most of the film, he is a passenger in this story. He is likeable and fun, but this installment of the story probably has the least comic relief (particularly if you exclude the oddly thrown in escapades of Ryan Gage’s Alfrid), and as a result you are left longing for the lighter, more fun moments of the earlier installments.

When coming to a verdict on part three, you can’t help but reflect on the franchise as a whole, and in that The Hobbit comes off well. The emotional payoff of seeing a story come to a close and the bookended story leading in to LOTR is immensely satisfying. Whether you think that splitting the story into three films was a good idea or not, each of them has something to offer which is worth watching and if you have sunk almost six hours into this story, you are going to want to see the end, and it’s a good end.

Rating: 3/5