Tag Archives: Middle Earth

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

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review | Film | This Is Entertainment

The HobbitIt must be fun being short (or ‘vertically challenged’ if you want to go for the overly PC term). There’s no low ceilings or door frames to be contended with, hide and seek is a doddle and most exciting of all you are perfectly suited for an epic adventure.

At least that’s what The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey would have us believe. On this latest foray into the Lord of the Rings universe, everyone’s second (or third…or more, delete as appropriate) hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is joined by a cohort of 13 dwarves and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), or rather he finds himself swept off on an adventure before you can say Gollum.

The story begins as something of an intro to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, setting up events before Bilbo’s long-expected 111th birthday party. Here the weight of the franchise falls heaviest, with a somewhat unnecessary cameo from Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, and the entire section seems to drag on too long, as much as you have to love Ian Holm as old Bilbo.

The fun really begins as Gandalf quizzes young Bilbo about the exact meaning of ‘Good day’, immediately cementing Freeman in the audience’s mind as the Bilbo from here on in.

Freeman, who was sought after to the point that Peter Jackson put a break in filming specifically so he could take the lead, shines as the reluctant hero, showing all the traits of the character we know and a whole lot more.

The dwarves are a rag tag bunch of personalities, too numerous to be able to pick out every one (or even remember specific names…), but the obvious stand out is Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage of Spooks and Captain America fame.

This film itself is driven by Thorin’s need to reclaim his grandfather’s realm from the great dragon Smaug, whose lust for gold drew him to take the fortress and leave it’s inhabitants running for their lives. Thorin’s tale is well told, and there is a real sense of pity for the character, while at the same time being intimidated by him, despite his stature, just as Bilbo is.

The other dwarves serve their purpose but only James Nesbitt as Bofur is really memorable, serving as effective comic relief. In fact you can spend much of the film working out who is playing each one and where you have seen them before.

Gandalf the Grey and Radagast the Brown in The HobbitThe tale takes us to familiar locations such as Rivendell and we meet characters such as Saruman, who we immediately do not trust, knowing of his later betrayal. There are also new faces such as Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy), a fellow great, but rag tag, wizard who spends his time in the forest with animals, including rabbits which pull his slay, like a cross between Father Christmas and Worzel Gummidge.

Gollum’s return is a welcome one and Andy Serkis puts 10 years of advancement in technology to good use in making him look more scarily real than ever. The chemistry between Freeman and Serkis on screen makes for some tense moments, but you do worry whether this card has been played too early, with the real meat of the adventure still to come, and how can the film top the tales of Gollum in LOTR?

The epic camera sweeps across beautiful New Zealand return, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a mere retread of LOTR. The quest and the story are both much more personal, character-driven affairs, which make for a more intimate feature. Of course there are grand moments, such as a chase sequence when the gang try to escape a goblin stronghold, but there are more dialogue driven scenes.

Leaps of faith are necessary in some areas, particularly when Gandalf uses his old ‘summon the giant eagles’ trick, prompting much eye-rolling followed by “Why did they drop them off there rather than at the lonely mountain?” Luckily the story itself is interesting enough for you to want to see the journey just as much as the destination.

Music and cinematography are top quality, something you would expect from a team led by Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson who filmed the previous films, but in order to hold audience’s attention for a further two films, he will need to give more. Many things which are forgiveable about this instalment of The Hobbit won’t be overlooked in part two: The Desolation of Smaug.

In all, the film is a solid effort which is a must for existing fans of the universe, but unlikely to sway those put off by the initial trilogy.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry