At just under two hours and 25 minutes, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is without a doubt the shortest in the trilogy but packs an energetic punch with special attention given to bringing all the storylines to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion.
This is much more than the end of The Hobbit. It’s Peter Jackson’s swan song to the 1,032 minutes he has spent on the story of Middle Earth (including all the Lord of the Rings films). Jackson’s mastery of the epic blockbuster is cemented with these six films, especially given that he – along with a team of writers that includes Guillermo del Toro – basically stretched a short novel into a trilogy with a complex storyline.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies starts exactly where the last one finished off, with the dragon Smaug attacking Laketown by breathing fire onto the population. Scenes of women and children carted off onto boats underlie the giant beast that flies above, wreaking havoc. This film assumes the audience is up to speed with everything. Audiences may take a few minutes to remember who some of these characters are – that’s what happens with an epic that has already clocked over 340 minutes before the third installment.
Jackson takes a measured approach, however, for the first quarter of the film and slowly reacquaints the audience with the characters, their overall motivations and their immediate predicaments. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the 13 dwarves have finally reached Erebor where vast treasures are concealed. Still, the place is haunted with a spell that corrupts even the best men and our heroes are left to discover just what exactly needs to be done for them to survive.
There’s obviously a giant battle (which feels like 10) that takes up the majority of the film. The orcs reappear with a vast army while the elves return to help those devastated by the dragon and squabble with the dwarves. Everybody seems to be fighting each other, and the potential for a messy visual mish-mas is high. Thankfully, Jackson guides the audience with a depiction of organised chaos that is both clear and crisp; a miracle given the sheer scope of the story.
Some of the usually stoic characters, like Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Torrin (Richard Armitage), have been fleshed out and made whole through difficulties that they have to bear. At the same time, we see much more screen time given to Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans), which gives us a second seemingly unlikely hero other than Bilbo.
The conclusion is more than satisfying, with a nod to the beginning of the first Lord of the Rings film and an appearance by a familiar face. There’s a sense of finality with these last few scenes, as though we’re seeing our baby grow up. It’s taken Jackson 13 years to complete the entire six film epic and, somberly, it’s time for the entire thing to bow out – this was a great way to do it.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Benedict Cumberbatch, Lee Pace, and Billy Connolly