All journeys must eventually come to an end, and after 13 years and six movies, director Peter Jackson completes his time in Middle Earth with “The Battle of the Five Armies,” the final chapter in “The Hobbit” trilogy. Jackson earned an Oscar for his adaptation of British author J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy series “The Lord of the Rings,” and he returned to Middle Earth to bring to life the LOTR prequel “The Hobbit.”
The main character, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), is quite a different hobbit by the end of the prequel trilogy. At first reluctant to leave his comfortable home in the Shire, Bilbo is now a key player in events that will shape the course of Middle Earth’s history.
“The Battle of the Five Armies” picks up right where the previous film left off — the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) has been unleashed from the Lonely Mountain and is determined to destroy nearby Lake-town. However, once the dragon is dealt with, fans of the book know darker threats await. Dwarven king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) is consumed with lust for the treasure found within the Lonely Mountain, and both Elves, Men and Orcs are willing to fight for that treasure.
It’s fair to say that overall, the “Hobbit” films don’t rise to quite the same epic heights as the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. After watching all three prequel films, I think Jackson probably could have kept the “Hobbit” to two films; unlike in “Lord of the Rings,” you can sense moments in these movies that are simply meant to pad the running time. Keeping “The Hobbit” to two films probably would have created a tighter plot with heightened impact.
That being said, it’s still been a lot of fun to return to Middle Earth, and the “Hobbit” films are still worth watching for fans. Consensus seems to be that “The Battle of the Five Armies” is the best of the trilogy, and I think I have to agree (although my two favorite moments of the trilogy — Bilbo’s battle of wits with Gollum (Andy Serkis) and later Smaug — are actually in the other two movies). The battle referenced in this movie’s title is genuinely epic. It captures the grandeur of the battles Jackson filmed for the LOTR trilogy but never feels like a rehash of those battles. We get to watch something we haven’t seen before — large armies from all of Middle Earth’s major races coming together on the field of battle.
It’s also the most emotional of the three Hobbit films, and it ends the trilogy on a poignant, bittersweet note. While I’m not quite sure if the Elf/Dwarf romance between Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Killi (Aidan Turner) really works in the plot, I admire Jackson for his willingness to try something unexpected. I really liked the portrayal of the reluctant friendship between Bilbo and Thorin, and how their loyalty is tested. I thought Luke Evans gave a good performance as Bard the Bowman, bringing a voice of compromise and reason to the conflict.
It’s a bit sad to think that Hollywood probably won’t be returning to Middle Earth, at least for a while (but hey, there’s still “The Silmarillion”! Imagine it as a “Game of Thrones” style HBO miniseries…). However, it’s been a fun experience, and “The Battle of the Five Armies” is a good way to end this journey.