Previously on “The Hobbit” Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves lead by Thorin Okenshield (Richard Armitage) royally pissed off the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) who proceeded to tear Laketown a new one.
In “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” we are smack in the middle of the fray as Bard (Luke Evans) attempts to save his town from the fire-breathing menace. Meanwhile Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is captured by orcs and is about to be killed when he receives help from some familiar friends in one of the better action sequences this recent series has seen since it began two years ago. Now that we’ve reached the end of the journey and overstuffed film versions of this tale of Middle-Earth, things are wrapped up the only way they can be. Poorly. Where most films have a McGuffin (the secret plans, or evil ring that sets the characters in motion) this movie has three. And while each one is sillier than the other, the funny part is none of them are resolved in a real satisfying way, that is until the ten-hour blu-ray extended edition is released that will cost 100 bucks to see the complete series as it was intended. Which is gold for fans, but unfair to people who will be paying for a quality movie of reasonable length right now.
Like the two previous Hobbit films, we get weak characters with ridiculous motivations, and where there are high points like most of the scenes with Luke Evans (some of which unfortunately are ruined by Ryan Gage as Alfrid). There are still terrible lows, as we are forced to sit through several scenes of Thorin going through his absurd “gold madness”. The only saving grace for this final installment is that it’s about 20 minutes shorter than the first two, so more focus is paid to the extremely epic battle of the five armies of elves, men, dwarves, orcs and goblins. Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen still fit their roles as Bilbo and Gandalf perfectly, as does some of the returning cast, though there is probably a little too much Legolas (Orlando Bloom). The new-comers like Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel) and Aidan Turner (Kili) have to wrap up their story in the logical, forced, and most predictable way that you start to wonder if Peter Jackson is the first director to hack himself. I still find it hard to believe that the same guy that made “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, made this weaker film version of what is actually a really good story.
The effects are still impressive, and the 3-D is actually watchable since most of the action takes place outside in the day, you don’t have to worry about the extra tint the glasses give to the film. And there are those moments that beg for the gravitas that has been building up for two films, but in the end, it’s just kind of alright, and some really well done action set pieces do little to make this a trilogy that belongs on your shelf with other classics.
–Robert L. Castillo