Geek Dave ventures to Middle Earth one last time to bring us his spoiler-lite review of The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies.
Although I agree with the general consensus that Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy doesn't live up to his Lord Of The Rings trilogy, I also feel that it was never going to do so and it's unfair to judge this new series on that criteria alone. As a novel The Hobbit is essentially The Lord Of The Rings Lite, it's a children's book which helps to introduce the world to Middle Earth. I read The Hobbit as a child, and it helps to set the scene for the infinitely more complex, adult orientated The Lord Of The Rings.
The decision to split the book into three movies was probably the wrong one as across the trilogy there has been too much filler, but Jackson had a lot of work to do in adapting this for the big screen and, even if he has dragged it out a bit, I think all in all he has actually improved on the source material <hides in corner as Tolkienists throw books my way>. It's in this last installment that most of his additional character development, and indeed additional characters, really pays off. The novel had very little in the way of climax but here Jackson's work brings an emotional resonance that simply wasn't present in the book.
Those additional character have gone some way to sidelining Bilbo in the saga to date, and making him more of a supporting character, The Battle Of The Five Armies does little to rectify that. Martin Freeman is of course excellent, and Bilbo is vital to the outcome of the story, but the tale Jackson is presenting simply doesn't have the young Hobbit at its centre, and now the trilogy is complete I believe this decision was absolutely the right way to go. This is Peter Jackson's The Hobbit after all.
After the astounding opening segment, we spend some time exploring Thorin Oakenshield's descent into madness and his growing paranoia, alongside the White Council's attempt to rescue Gandalf. But the majority of The Battle Of The Five Armies is set around the battle itself, and quite rightly so as you couldn't ask for a more impressive on screen conflict. When the warring factions collide, it's thrilling and
involving. The whole battle is long, very long, there's a slight lull in the middle but it grows to a spectacular conclusion.
There is no
weak link in the principle cast, they are all superb throughout, with Aiden Turner (Kili), Lee Pace (Thranduil), Richard Armitage (Thorin) and Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel) shining slightly brighter than the rest of the ensemble. The only slight stumble comes from Ryan Gage, who as Alfrid is given more screen time than his character needed, most likely in an attempt to add a bit of comic relief, but it doesn't really work.
Minor quibble aside, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies is the strongest film in the trilogy. It will increase your enjoyment if you re-watch the previous two before venturing out to see this one, and when you do prepare yourself for an incredible spectacle. Peter Jackson has wrapped things up with an action packed, emotional clash of friends and foes, and delivers a very satisfactory end to the saga.
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