The title is The Battle of the Five Armies so I shouldn’t be too surprised that my watch read “7:25” when the fighting started and “9:10” when it ended. The third installment of The Hobbit is like a fan mash-up of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. There’s an enormous amount of here-it-comes tension mixed with a bit of darkness-is-rising subplot, but the main focus of the movie is on dwarves, elves, humans, and ugly fellas who must be evil (I feel sorry for Ollie the Orc who’s just there to make a living) decapitating one another with fancy weapons whilst riding a petting zoo of armoured beasts.
We begin where we left off; Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is about to attack Laketown while the dwarves sit in their halls of stone counting coins. Smaug does his thing, the strength of men is tested, yada yada, our company of dwarves under the mountain suddenly have new neighbours in the form of Laketown survivors. “Love thy neighbour” isn’t really a thing yet, though, so we immediately have conflict between Thorin the dwarf king (Richard Armitage), Bard the human (Luke Evans), and Thranduil the elf lord (Lee Pace) who prances in with an army because he’s after some jewels or something – that part’s a bit vague. Give it a couple of minutes and we get another, proper dwarf army (Scottish this time), some goblin mercenaries (because what’s a war without goblin mercenaries?), and Ocrs. Fighting commences and doesn’t cease until all is lost, all is won, or all are so tired they agree to write their own songs of glory over goblets of ale.
The writers certainly try to show as much of Middle Earth as possible before we say our final farewell. Gandalf – beautifully, sentimentally, and powerfully acted by Ian McKellen – starts the movie in the middle of a visit to Sauron’s secret club house. His adventure adds a bit of backstory to a few characters in The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy, and proves that Gandalf can bounce back from anything short of falling off a cliff into the depths of hell with an angry fire demon.
The backstory, however, isn’t the only thing sprinkled delicately across this film. On top of the giant trolls who are apparently quite head-strong when it comes to fighting, I learned that different species ride different species into battle – obviously. For example: men ride horses, dwarves prefer pigs (or goats when in a pinch), Orcs love their steroid-fed wolves, and Lord Thranduil leads his army of elves on the back of a mighty, noble, antlered moose. Given the choice, and being a proud Canadian stereotype, I would of course pick the moose.
I can’t review The Hobbit without talking about the visuals. I watched The Battle of the Five Armies in 3D, but I don’t necessarily recommend it. It didn’t add much to the movie and it actually made some of the CGI look a little video game-ish. However, the close-ups of the Orcs were nicely detailed (even though I stand by my opinion that the designers should have used makeup wherever possible, like they did in the award winning LOTR trilogy). What really wowed me, though, were the wide-angle shots. Armies, mountains, four dwarves on a cliff-side, whatever, the wide-angles are awesome, and the sets they built/designed for Laketown and Dale are phenomenal. Visually, the scenery, cinematography, and set decoration amount to a very detailed, artistic piece of work.
There are a few questions that nag me; like how did Azog (Manu Bennett) sneakily build towering flag-signals atop a hill clearly visible to all his opponents? And how do the dwarves survive being shut-up in their mountain without an obvious food source? There isn’t as much humour for the sake of humour in this film – even though the snitch/brown-noser, Alfrid (Ryan Gage), has way more screen time than necessary – but there are a few hilarious battle moments that break up the charging fury. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies draws a beautiful, full circle to connect this series to the LOTR trilogy, and it is definitely my favourite film of all The Hobbits. It is easily a 7.5/10.
The Battle of the Five Armies trailer.
Spoiler alert!! You know what’s also easy? Calling the goddamn Eagles every time you need a hand. I mean, “AGAIN Gandalf!? Fine, we’ll save you AGAIN, but this is the LAST time. No more favours, no more flying into battle, and NO MORE MOUNTAINS! ‘Don’t worry the Eagles are here’ OF COURSE THE EAGLES ARE BLOODY WELL HERE! As if we have NOTHING BETTER TO DO!”