Epic end to the Hobbit journey
The end is nigh. After five movies and what felt like two days spent in the cinema, Peter Jackson makes a final trip to Middle-Earth for his second trilogy finale.
After The Desolation of Smaug left us hanging with a fiery cliffhanger, the appropriatelynamed Battle of the Five Armies sees our heroes caught up in a colossal war to save their homeland.
The Battle of the Five Armies is actually the shortest of Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations — clocking in at ‘just’ 144 minutes — and probably the most action-heavy.
A memorable opening sequences sees the dragon Smaug swoop in for the kill as the stricken community of Laketown comes under siege and Jackson rarely pauses for breath from there on.
Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro are back on board screenplay duties but their dialogue-penning talents are — for once — barely required.
The meatiest material for the trio to sink their teeth into is familiar territory for the trilogy — and its three-film predecessor — as the men-twisted-by-power theme returns to the forefront.
This time it’s Richard Armitage’s Thorin whose mind is poisoned and this gives the former Vicar of Dibley star the chance to show off his acting range — and it’s his contrasting relationship with Martin Freeman’s Bilbo that rates as the movie’s best. With Thorin playing Mr Nasty for a large spell, it’s up to Luke Evans’ Bard to film the main hero role and, while he does a fine job, when the head dwarf sorts his head out, Evans — bar one downhill carriage ride — gets harshly cast aside.
With such a huge cast, it’s inevitable that some stars get sidetracked and for every strong character — Freeman’s heroic Hobbit, Orlando Bloom’s physics-defying elf — there’s a dwarf (hello, James Nesbitt’s Bofur) or interesting creation (Mikael Persbrandt’s shape-shifter Beorn) that are barely seen or heard.
But Aidan Turner (Kili) and Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel) share sweet chemistry, it’s good to see Christopher Lee (Saruman) back in action and Billy Connelly’s dwarf Dain makes a fun new addition.
The Battle of the Five Armies’ main selling point is its titular scrap and the build-up to the 45-minute long war is just about worth the wait.
While falling shy of The Two Towers’ Battle of Helm’s Deep, new creature additions (massive earthworms, giant bats), swordplay, impending dread and relentless death combine for another visual triumph for Jackson and his Weta Digital team.
Alas, though, people just vanish and the hugescale battle just sort of peters out as one-on-one grudges are settled, and it takes touching Freemaninspired moments to rescue the climax.
For all the moans and jokes about the running time of Jackson’s adventures, The Battle of the Five Armies is one epic that will likely benefit from its extended edition.
Epic finale Gandalf and Bard get ready for battle