It all started in 2012 when an unsuspecting Bilbo Baggins left his comfy home in the Shire to help thirteen dwarves take back their homeland from a fierce dragon. Finally, after two years, fans are able to see how everything played out and if Bilbo’s quest was everything he thought it would be in “The Battle of the Five Armies.”
In the final chapter of “The Hobbit” trilogy we find out the dwarves of Erebor have finally reached their journey’s end and reclaimed their homeland under the Lonely Mountain. But in the course of doing so, they unintentionally released the arrogant dragon, Smaug, who heads toward the innocent and unsuspecting people of Laketown. The movie opens as Bilbo and the company of Thorin Oakenshield helplessly watches from the ruins of Dale as Smaug sets Laketown aflame.
The first half of “Five Armies” does a nice job wrapping up the loose ends from the previous movie, “The Desolation of Smaug.” Within the first twenty minutes, we see Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) facing off against Smaug, Gandalf’s escape from Dol Guldor and the banishing of Sauron to Mordor and the relationship between Kili and Tauriel settle, as they each head their separate ways. From there, the tension builds in preparation of the climactic battle.
The second half of the movie is a grand and epic battle that director Peter Jackson has become famous for constructing. The doorstep of Erebor and the city of Dale become a massive battleground as the five armies clash for control of the mountain.While the hour-long battle sequence would seem like a lot of fighting to watch, the sweeping shots of the battleground, the various characters and cutbacks to the main characters every few seconds makes the scene not seem like too much action. Every shot builds up to the confrontation where the Orc commanders face off against Thorin and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) in two very satisfying duels.
All the actors did a superb job once again in totally committing to their roles and the world. Richard Armitage’s performance as Thorin was different as he was able to showcase a darker tone while his character struggled with personal demons. And of course, Ian McKellen comes through a sixth time as the reassuring Gandalf.
“The Battle of the Five Armies” is no doubt fun to watch, but it is not without its flaws. At some points during the action the CGI feels too bombastic and comes off as an animated movie, rather than a live action. The minor background character of Alfrid, who was just an assistant to the master of Laketown in “Desolation of Smaug,” seems to have way too much screen time, having more lines than eight out of the thirteen dwarves combined, who are supposed to be the main characters.
The ending of the movie feels too rushed; the battle ceases and minutes later the credits roll. It would have been nice to see a little more resolution with what happened to the elves, men and dwarves, especially with regards to Bard and his family and the rebuilding of Erebor.
The blu-ray, as usual, makes everything much crisper and clearer. There are also a few nice behind-the-scenes features, including the design and look of the five armies, and an especially tender featurette of Peter Jackson and his team as they recall their seventeen year journey of bringing the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies to the screen.
“The Battle of the Five Armies” is a fitting conclusion to “The Hobbit” trilogy and also serves as a nice connecting chapter to the “Lord of the Rings,” planting a few fun easter eggs for what is to come in the next trilogy. The shortcomings can no doubt be overlooked in overall appreciation of taking one last adventure into Middle-earth.
“The Battle of the Five Armies” is now available on blu-ray and DVD.