How could I not review the final film of the Hobbit trilogy?
The Battle of the Five Armies is a good film. It is the best of the three films, and the shortest. It clocks in at two hours and twenty-four minutes. I think this is because Jackson did a tighter cut with this film compared to the others. I am certain there will be many added scenes to the extended addition, but none feel necessary.
The film begins with the death of Smaug. I think this was a mistake. The scene works as an action-packed opener for the film, yet it lacks the impact it would have had at the end of The Desolation of Smaug. This edit happened because the series was expanded from two films to three.
Once that scene is done, Jackson goes into the story proper, which is heavily focused on Thorin. Richard Armitage continues his fantastic work, showing us Thorin’s descent into madness. Martin Freeman gives a wonderful performance, particularly toward the end of the film.
Indeed, there is nothing wrong with any of the actors’ portrayals. Evangeline Lily, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, and Orlando Bloom continue to deliver. Pace’s performance was particularly interesting as we see his Elvishness play against Bard’s humanity. Luke Evans played the role of Bard well, keeping the character grounded and sensible compared to all the poor decisions being made by everyone else.
The 48fps continued to improve. I saw the film in 2D and 3D, and both looked the same this time around. That may come down to digital grading and various other editing tricks. Likewise, the special effects were improved. Many of the digital characters were upgraded. The massive armies looked quite real. The only problems were scenes where characters appeared to move too quickly or lacked a sense of weight. Fortunately, there were not many of those.
Some have complained about the amount of digital characters. They seem to forget that most of the characters in the Lord of the Rings battles were digital. The one major exception was the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Most of those were stuntmen. However, many of the digital characters in the Hobbit films are stuntmen who performed via motion capture. The action is theirs, but the physical appearance is digital.
That said, I do agree that it would be better to see more people in suits rather than digital doubles. There are a few in the films, but not as many as people would like.
Of all the films, I think this one will upset Tolkien purests the most. Jackson takes huge liberties with the story, particularly during the battle at Dol Guldur. The scene begins rather bad when we see Galadriel walking in person to the cage to free Gandalf. Jackson makes a point of showing the audience Galadriel’s hand, particularly her ring Nenya. Nenya, the ring of water, is one of the three Elven rings of power that are supposed to be hidden. We also see Gandalf wearing Narya, the ring of fire. After seeing the film six times, I still could not tell if Elrond wore Vilya, the ring of air, but I assume he did.
My point is that these rings are supposed to be hidden from Sauron, yet they are in clear view, particularly at the end of the scene when Sauron is revealed.
Overall, the scene is fine. The action is superb, and the acting is great. The only clunky part is the end of the scene. At this point, we have seen nothing close to this kind of magic being used. It feels completely out of place in this film. The scene simply does not work well for the story Jackson has told.
The same goes for the ending of the Tauriel, Kili, and Legolas love triangle. It feels unnecessary, particularly since nothing comes of it. We know that none of the characters will end together, so it is ultimately pointless. Worse, Tauriel is stripped of her coolness. She ironically becomes the damsel in distress, although solely to serve the story. One of the love triangle needs to die and the other needs a cool action scene, ergo Tauriel must not defeat the orc.
Speaking of orcs, I am also confused about them. There is a lot of sunlight in the film, yet orcs are not supposed to be able to handle broad sunlight. That seems an error that should not have happened.
The music is the one flawless point in the film. Howard Shore bridges all the films, giving hints of the Fellowship and Gondor themes, along with reprising all the themes from the first two Hobbit films. Billy Boyd’s song actually does not fit the film. The film clearly is not the end of the story, so the song does not work on that level. It does work, however, as a ending of an era.
The Tolkien estate does not like the New Line/Warner Brothers films. They have had monetary fallouts with the studio for years. They also do not appear to like Peter Jackson much either. It is unlikely that they will allow the current group to make anymore films. In this way, Boyd’s song works to end the Jackson films, and it works well.
Again, I think this was a good film. The Hobbit films are not as good as the Lord of the Rings films, but that was to be expected. It is hard to recapture that kind of moment. However, I enjoyed the Hobbit films, and I look forward to watching them and the Lord of the Rings films together in one sitting.