Epic end to the Hob­bit jour­ney

Rutherglen Reformer - - Reviews - The Hob­bit: Bat­tle of the Five Armies

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

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