Title: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Country: USA, New Zealand
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Director: Peter Jackson
Guillermo del Toro
based on the novel of J.R.R. Tolkien
Music: Howard Shore
Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie
Not intentionally, I missed the final episode of Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT trilogy in theater, now a belated Blu-Ray viewing can finally give a not so satisfactory closure to the Middle Earth adventure, 15 years, 6 epic-length features, although THE HOBBIT can hardly match the height of THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, still, it is hard to say goodbye to the mythical terrain where all the fantastic creatures reside, a toast to an end of an era.
The prologue of THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is immediately continues where THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (2013) finishes, in about 10-minutes, a ravaging Smaug (voiced by Cumberbatch) again fails to overcome his bad habit of verbosity, exits the scene thanks to Bard’s (Evans) last arrow. Then, almost inclusively, the film embarks on a prolonged battle in the Lonely Mountain, involving dwarfs, elves, men, and two armies of orcs. The only conflict is Thorin’s (Armitage) obsession with all the treasure in the mountain (you don’t need a magic ring to be delusional, treasures can do the same trick), which intrigues him to obstinately block the entrance of the mountain, refuse the survivors from Laketown and an elf army lead by Thranduil (Pace) to share the astronomical fortune, while they remain still and wait for the succor from his cousin Dáin’s (Connolly) dwarf army. All is set to be an internecine war, yet orcs are too imbecile to know when a snipe and a clam grapple, it is the fisherman who profits. Thus, their impetuous arrival instantly unite elves, men and dwarves as allies, together, after Thorin finally gets his senses back, they engage a final bloodletting battle to defend their common enemy.
The action sequences seldom best its predecessors, a rehash of the grandiose battle array, soon retreat to the main combats, after dispatching two dwarves to evoke pathos, all eyes are on Legolas (Bloom) Vs. Bolg (Tui) and Thorin Vs. Azog the Defiler (Bennett), one pointer for dwarves, if you’re rather good-looking, the odds of being massacred by orcs are pretty high. Yet, for the main battle scene, surprisingly Jackson is quite frugal in letting us witness how the battle is won on a grand level, Beorn (Persbrandt) is only seen in one glimpsing scene when he turns into a gigantic bear and hurtles to the orc troop, so is the Great Eagles, really there is no budget for that? Who can buy that?
The cast looks jaded, not just Gandalf (McKellen), Bloom’s Legolas, as swift as a jumping monkey, completely loses his knockout vitality, Bard is never seen shooting another arrow after killing Smaug, quickly retreats to be a second fiddler while Alfrid (Gage) is given too many scenes as an unrepentant nuisance, Thranduill is habitually putting on airs whereas Tauriel (Lilly) is not agile enough to save her love. Also the main anchor of the film is not Bilbo (Freeman), the master of burglar, anymore, it is Armitage’s Thorin, carries the brunt of the flimsy narrative, it is his inner demon to grapple with, his hard-earned redemption to fight for and his sacrifice to tip the scale, despite compared as an inferior analogue of Aragorn, Armitage gives Thorin a full-blooded rendition in his last combat to win his dignity and honor back. As the ending intentionally circles back to the beginning of THE LORD OF RING with nostalgic bliss, THE HOBBIT trilogy dutifully conducts its task as an overlong prequel, to evoke that the next chapter is far more competent, intriguing and intricate, that’s what every qualified prequel should do, just like STAR WARS.