You have my sword.
And you have my bow.
And my axe!
And my money!
Winter is here and that means we are taking another visit to Middle-earth. The Battle of the Five Armies looks to be the final movie in the franchise, unless Peter Jackson decides to adapt the Silmarillion. There’s a 40% chance we’ll see that series starting December 2022. Stranger things have happened.
The Battle of the Five Armies is the culmination of the Hobbit trilogy. When we last left the fellowship of the dwarves, they had reached their destination, but not without incident. In turn, they awakened the dragon Smaug and he was on his way to destroy Lake-town.
BotFA starts out with the thrilling attack and we get to see Smaug on the big screen again. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves, led by Thorin (Richard Armitage), have control of the lonely mountain. Yet, Thorin has let his all-consuming search for the Arkenstone take precedence over helping the surviving residents of Lake-town or preparing for an inevitable war. Now that the treasure-filled mountain is dragon-free, several armies approach. Some in search of treasure and others for blood. Eventually, there are five armies and they battle and….well, you get the picture.
The Hobbit franchise will always be seen as ‘less than’ the Lord of the Rings series. I believe the differences lie in the source material. The Hobbit is one book that was written for children. Tolkien’s writing improved and wrote the Lord of the Rings for older audiences. The popular perception is that Jackson was greedy for turning The Hobbit into three movies. In order to fit every set-piece, I don’t think any less than two movies would’ve cut it. While there is flab to be had in this series, the fanboy inside me would never complain about extra time in Middle-earth.
All that bias aside, The Battle of the Five Armies is the most thrilling and emotional installment of this prequel series. Besides the spectacular intro, fans will devour a skirmish at Dol Guldur. It’s one of the first, of many, moments that will change your smile into a full-on grin.
In terms of character development, this movie belongs to Richard Armitage. In previous movies, he was generally seen as the stoic one. Finally, he goes through an actual transition and becomes part of the emotional core, second only to Bilbo. Sadly, most of the other dwarves are dwarfed (sorry) by everything else happening in the movie. The majority of these dwarves aren’t given the chance to speak one line.
Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) are back and once again provide some of the greatest action in the movie. The difference between this movie and supposed epic, Exodus, is that Peter Jackson knows how to get an audience emotionally involved in a clearly fantastical situation. Even with a backdrop that is largely green screen, you are taken on an adventure that is reminiscent of nostaligic ’80s fantasy movies.
As far as quality goes, this is the best trip to Middle-earth since Return of the King. Not only that, but it provides a satisfying ending that will force you to start Fellowship of the Ring as soon as you get back home. This may sound crazy, but The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is too short at 144 minutes. It’s the shortest in the series. It feels as if Peter Jackson purposefully cut a half hour in order to justify a stellar extended release six months from now. I will still buy it.
The Battle of the Five Armies is worth seeing. This series is definitely more simple than Lord of the Rings, but that’s also a large part of its charm. I am sad that there won’t be another installment next December. Goodbye Middle-earth.