Well, the title sums up the film – three hours of a mighty and suitably epic battle to conclude Sir Peter Jackson’s prequel trilogy, The Hobbit. In fact, the film consists of little more than many slow motion battle scenes, regular motion battle scenes, a physics-defying Legolas, and slightly drawn out duels of personal significance to individual characters. All in all, despite some poignant moments, it feels like one drawn out battle, and thus is a slightly anti-climactic end to the Middle-Earth series – unless they decide to make a Silmarillion series (please don’t).
Anti-climactic generally describes the movie. (MINOR SPOILERS) Smaug’s death happens in literally the first five minutes, and because of this it doesn’t have any of the tension or build up necessary to make it a superb opening. Indeed, the film lacks a lot of real tension. While the standoff between the Elves, Dwarves and Men got quite tense at times, although even then there were moments where the tension seemed to dissipate. Because there is a lack of build-up in this film, it just doesn’t seem to be as fulfilling a finale as “The Return of the Kings” was to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Plot wise there are some unanswered questions. Whether they will be explored in the extended version or not remains to be seen. However, there are enough little extra stories which are either messily ended or not finished at all to make the audience leave the theatre feeling unfulfilled. In many ways, most of the smaller stories could have been done away with, leaving two slightly longer but more emotionally satisfying films.
The Battle of Five Armies, much like the Desolation of Smaug, is seriously lacking in any humour. There were some slightly chuckle-inducing moments, especially around Bilbo and the Master of the Lake, but overall the film was once again devoid of that twinkle, either Tolkien’s or Jackson’s, which made the Lord of the Rings trilogy and even the first part so enjoyable. Also, the lack of that twinkle may contribute to the film dragging on so long.
Not all is tiresome though. The main thrust of the story – that greed is bad – I superbly executed. In fact the only real problem is that it could have been explored even further (ideally at the expense of the battles slightly). Thorin and his “dragon sickness” are fantastically executed, and the parallels between his own insatiable and fanatical greed and Smaug’s desire are very well done.
More generally the production and acting are fantastic – they all do their best with occasionally cheesy lines (like Tauriel and Killi’s romance). From Lee Pace’s detached and arrogant elf-lord; to Kate Blanchet’s astounding fairy elf ring magic; to Sir Ian McKellen’s grumpy Gandal, they all manage to perform stupendously. In fact, it is the combination of their acting and the score that gives the film emotional depth at all – even with the somewhat predictable and cheesy writing.
In conclusion The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies is something that should be watched, especially if you have been following the Middle Earth saga. Certainly, it has some amazing moments, and the production is stunning. However, slightly underwhelming writing and insufficient plot movement really let this film down, bringing a rather underwhelming end to the Middle Earth Saga.