I fondly remember sitting in the theatre watching Peter Jackson’s The Return Of The King with a bitter-sweet smile on my face. It was an epic goodbye to an epic trilogy. Even as we endured the nine different endings with its 201 minute run time. I think the entire audience must have stood up and then sat back down several times as we kept waiting for the credits to roll, but once they did, we all knew it was over. Peter Jackson’s phenomenal adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings had come to a wild close.
When news began to spread almost a decade later that Peter Jackson would be returning to Middle-earth with his take on The Hobbit, I knew the world was going to be in for a real treat. Especially for those like myself, who have never read any of the novels. It was going to be an opportunity for parents everywhere to take their kids to the movies and watch them experience the enchantment of a Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth film on the silver screen.
An experience that I would put up in the same ballpark as going to see a Star Wars film. Magical. Here we are twelve years later since we said our farewell to The Return Of The King, with a full circle last goodbye to Middle-earth with The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. An unexpected journey indeed.
The film picks up right where the cliffhanger from The Desolation of Smaug left us with when the unwelcomed house guest dragon decided to take out his anger on the residents of Lake-town after being awakened from his slumber. Peter Jackson catapults us like a battlefield boulder right into the film’s opening with some fantastic CGI action. Very similar to the opening sequence to George Lucas’s prequel trilogy final chapter in Revenge Of The Sith. Not quite the same scale, but similar.
I won’t spoil this flick for those who have not seen the final chapter. However, I will say that when a major character to the entire trilogy is killed off in the film’s opening twenty minutes, I was a bit surprised. Again, very similar to watching Count Dooku die in the opening of Revenge Of The Sith.
Once the aftermath of the opening battle comes to an end, the film slows down for just a bit as we witness Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves settling into their home on top the Lonely Mountain. Thorin (Richard Armitage) has begun to show severe symptoms of gold sickness, the very same disease his grandfather had in An Unexpected Journey. Thorin has become obsessed with finding the lost Arkenstone, a treasure that Bilbo and the rest of the dwarves have chosen to hide as they feel handing it over would only make the sickness even worse.
The disease has made our hero, Thorin, a very cold-hearted dwarf. No more clear when we watch as he turns his back on the remaining survivors of Lake-town. This is clearly not the same King of oak and shield that we cheered for in the first two films of the trilogy.
Jumping across the Middle-earth to creepy castle of Dol Guldur, the film picks up the pace again with some good old-fashioned ass kicking wizard action as Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Saruman (Christopher Lee), and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) attempt to rescue the once again imprisoned Gandalf (Ian McKellen). Theres nothing like watching wizards battling with their staffs and this scene does not disappoint. We are even shown some pretty cool foreshadowing as we listen to Saruman confidently tell everyone, “Leave Sauron to me”. Fans of the original trilogy and novels, already know how well that turned out.
The films last story arc begins to come to focus shortly after as we have Thorin and his dwarves holding onto The Lonely Mountain refusing to let anyone in for fear of being robbed. Note, this is all Thorin here, with his dwarf entourage and Bilbo simply following their Kings orders with a hesitant and concerned eye. Soon then we have the Elf army showing up with the residents of Lake-town in an effort to claim some of the mountains treasures. Specifically, a white gem elven necklace.
Thorin refuses and chooses war as he waits for his stubborn cousin, Dain (Billy Connolly), and his dwarf army to arrive to defend The Lonely Mountain. Dain was one of the highlights of the film for me. A fantastic character that was both an entertaining warrior and stole the scene in a refreshing comedic moment as his dwarf army approached to “negotiate” with the Elf and human alliance.
Right when the tension is at its thickest, the first of two of Sauron’s army arrives with their “Tremors” style giant worms busting right though the mountains. From here on out to the final credits is pure Peter Jackson action and suspense at his finest as human, elf, and dwarf allies fight it out for peace in Middle-earth against Sauron’s orc army. The climatic battle as Thorin faces for the last time his nemesis, Azog ( voiced by Manu Bennett) , and of course, watching Bilbo return home to the Shire from his There and Back Again adventure.
Fantastic acting, top-notch production from CGI to backdrop sets, and make up/costume have always been a staple for any Peter Jackson film set in Middle-earth and The Battle Of The Five Armies is no exception. Everything about this film is polished to a HD shine as we say goodbye to beloved characters and their universe in Middle-earth. In addition, the film was refreshingly not as long as the typical Peter Jackson offering, clocking in at a little over two hours.
Not to say the finale felt rushed, the opposite in fact. We are even treated to a delightful full circle return to the Shire with a hilarious scene where the local hobbits are selling all of Bilbo’s furniture, where if you remember, was mentioned in the opening narrative of An Unexpected Journey. The Blu-ray sound was outstanding as the famous Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth battle orchestra echoed through out the entire film, again a staple for the series.
The usual Special Features are all accounted for with deleted scenes, trailers, and a pretty cool Lego Target exclusive that will add Bard the Bowman and Bain to your collection. The award for coolest special feature would easily go to the final chapter of New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth – Part 3.
Watching The Battle Of The Five Armies and The Hobbit trilogy is a lot like eating a slice of key lime pie dessert before the steak aka the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. While delicious, it just isn’t quite as fulfilling as the rib eye.
I give The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies a 3 1/2 out of 4 Ninja Throwing Stars