(Spoiler Alert) As the credits began to roll at the end of the final instalment in the Hobbit franchise, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that this was the final time that we would get to travel through Middle Earth with some of the greatest characters to have ever come to life on the big screen and not just from a fans standpoint, but as a kiwi. The Lord of the Rings helped put New Zealand on the map and introduce the land of the long white cloud to a world that was, for the most part, oblivious to the petite yet mind-blowingly stunning settings of the country prior to the trilogy. The Hobbit trilogy continued to fascinate cinemagoers and travellers alike and while the original Lord of the Rings adventure opened the country up to endless opportunities for film creators, there was a bit of mourning as we joined Bilbo, Galdalf, Legolas and their comrades through one final adventure on The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies as the latest instalment closes the book on the franchise.
Picking up where the 2nd in the trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, left us last year, we are reunited with Bilbo, Thiron and the rest of the dwarves as they make their treacherous journey to reclaim Erebor, the mountain which was dominated by the devilish dragon, Smaug who has taken to Laketown to burn and destroy the small city. When Smaug is killed by Bard, who shoots a rod at his heart and ending the dragons vengeance over the city, the residents of the small city head toward the mountain led by Bard, their new leader.
Meanwhile, as Thorin’s personal quest for the powerful and valuable Arkenstone takes over his mind, a war against him and his reclaimed Lonely Mountain ensues as the homeless people of the forsaken Laketown join forces with the Elf king (Lee Pace) and his army to take what is there’s from the treasure within the mountain of Erebor. Unknown to them, an orc army, led by the one-armed Azog, takes to the mountain, joining the elves, the people of Laketown, Thiron and his comrades and a army of Dwarves, led by the Thorin’s cousin Dáin (played by funny man Billy Connolly) for one final showdown.
Peter Jackson has created yet another visual masterpiece with this final chapter and uses the striking backdrop of his homeland to his fullest advantage as the characters venture over baron lands, vast ranges and mountainous terrain to reach their final battleground at the base of the dwarf kingdom of Erebor.
While the visual element of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was nothing short of spectacular, the story fell a little flat for me. As a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the previous instalments of The Hobbit, I was a little disappointed with its weak storyline and character development. As the final film in a franchise like this, the expectation for originality is very high but I felt that the structure of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was too similar to The Return of the King and much more underwhelming.
There were several cringe-worthy moments where Thiron (played by Richard Crispin Armitage) attempted to deliver his momentary evil persona as he was taken over by his pursuit for the Arkenstone, which caused the audience to laugh out loud – probably not the response Peter Jackson had been hoping for when he was putting these scenes together. The film was also offered to the character of Thiron and other characters more so that it was to Bilbo who was supposed to be the central character to this trilogy. While the Lord of the Rings carried a strong, cohesive story of the ring and Frodo’s quest to destroy it, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies felt quite detached at times and the focus was taken from Bilbo (played by Martin Freeman) so much so that he seemed more like a spare part and a nuisance to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies than an integral character. Other than keeping the Arkenstone from Thiron during the final two instalments, there really didn’t seem to be a purpose for having Bilbo in the film and that was the most evident in this final chapter.
Saying this, I did still thoroughly enjoy this last adventure into Middle Earth. One of the reasons films like The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies are so phenomenally successful is because of the visual component to them and no expense was spared here, that’s for sure. The battle that concluded the film was impeccably drawn out as each of the armies battled at the foot of the Lonely Mountain. A scene involving monstrous earth burrowing worms, while brief, was one of my favourite, as well as the reuniting of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Saruman (Christopher Lee) who rescue Galdalf (Ian McKellen) from the Ringwraiths and Sauron. The inclusion of Billy Connolly within the cast as the Dwarf leader was also complimenting to the film as the Scot’s transformation from tall, skinny comedian to short, fat and hairy pig riding dwarf was exceptionally convincing and enjoyable.
While there was some areas of concern within The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, this final chapter is well worth the watch and ties things up nicely between the two trilogies. With memorable performances from several key characters and the introduction of some new faces to the franchise, The Hobbit is one franchise that will be very much missed as our journey through Middle Earth comes to a high octane end.
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