Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) Reivew

Directed by
Peter Jackson

Over a decade ago, Peter Jackson created The Lord of the Rings, a magical epic trilogy that became an instant classic revered by millions.  This year, Jackson concluded his follow-up prequel trilogy, completing the tales of Middle Earth first imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Although The Hobbit trilogy has not been as heralded and critically-acclaimed as the original, they have succeeded at making three high-quality films that recreate the fantastical world that took Hollywood by storm 11 years ago.

Breaking up the novel into three movies, the first installment, An Unexpected Journey, introduces us to the premise of the trilogy: Bilbo Baggins and a band of dwarfs join the wizard Gandalf in marching on the lost home of the dwarfs that was conquered by the crafty dragon Smaug.  In the second installment, The Desolation of Smaug, the group reaches their destination and awakens the dragon in their attempt to recover a precious family relic from Smaug's hoard of treasure.  This third installment, The Battle of the Five Armies, gives the climactic ending to the saga as Smaug wreaks havoc on a nearby village and several nations join the fight for the strategic home of the dwarfs, now abandoned by the dragon and filled with riches.
This story goes through several phases.  First, there is the struggle to stop Smaug.  Next comes the inner struggle of the dwarf king, Thorin, as he allows the treasures of his reclaimed home corrupt his judgment.  This leads to the final battle of (you guessed it) five different armies fighting for control of the same territory.

As fun as the story is, the cast of mostly no name actors brings it to life wonderfully.  The cast is led by Martin Freeman, playing the titular hobbit.  Richard Armitage's Thorin comes to life in this installment as the tortured leader struggling with the immensity of his regained kingdom and fortune.  He leads the band of no name actors playing the group of dwarfs that fill their roles perfectly.  One of the greatest parts of this new trilogy is how Peter Jackson was able to bring back so many actors from The Lord of the Rings to reprise their roles.  This is led by Ian McKellan returning as Gandalf for one last go-around.  He joins the likes of Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm, Orlando Bloom, and 92 year old Christopher Lee as those with the honor of appearing in both trilogies.
The best way to describe this film is chaotic, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  There is a lot that happens in this shortest of the 6 films, clocking in at 144 minutes.  For as much that happens and as short as the film is, at no point does it ever feel rushed.  It is a controlled chaos that makes this 144 minute film feel even shorter.

A common complaint I have heard about this film is inaccuracies and minor plot changes when comparing it to the novel.  Not having read the novel, I cannot speak to these criticisms, however I don't believe adaptations of the source material should be automatically counted as flaws because they aren't as they should be.  I think the story and plot of the film, although at times trying a little too hard to be suspenseful and dramatic, works, and any changes that may or may not have been made do not distract from the overall telling of this amazing story.
One problem I have with this movie has less to do with the film itself and more about the philosophy behind this film.  A trend over the last few years when adapting novels to film has been to split novels into multiple installments.  With franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, they have split the final installment into two films to allow for a proper telling of the story (and twice the amount of money made at the box office).  This book was split into a trilogy, which appears to me to be a bit of overkill.  The three films created are high quality films, but I would have loved to see what could have happened if they gave this book the same treatment they gave the other three novels in this series.

With all this said, those who appreciate this series of films should definitely catch this final installment of the series.  It is a fun film that does the franchise justice and brings the story full circle.  For this film to make any sense however, you have to watch the first two parts of the story (which is part of the problem with this trend).  The Battle of the Five Armies is a wonderful film though that is a must see for any fans of the books, the films, or the fantasy genre in general.


Watch the trailer here:

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