The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies suffers from an identity crisis.
It is trying its best to be a Lord of the Rings movie, with all of the expected grandeur and spectacle, while at the same time trying to adapt a story that is on a smaller scale with lower stakes. The film’s plot revolves around the titular battle, yet begins with the prequel’s climax.
The opening thus feels extremely shallow and pointless, with the actual death of Smaug being quite anticlimactic. This portion of the film should have been left to the previous Hobbit film, The Desolation of Smaug. It is a victim of the, very obviously, studio demanded plot expansion stretching to three films.
Nonetheless the majority of The Battle of The Five Armies’s plot is quite solid. It’s fascinating to see the genuine drama that the eponymous battle indeed evokes. However there are some minor gripes I do have to address, namely the forced romance plot between Tauriel, Kili and Legolas. Due to the nature of an ensemble cast these characters do not get much screen-time, so their plot lacks drama or interest and consequently subtracts from the overall plot. It honestly feels like this storyline was inserted to tick a checklist of things that must be happen in a Hollywood film.
But this does not detract from Peter Jackson’s superb direction. Once again he succeeds in choreographing and shooting both close combat skirmishes, while also being able to frame large scale battles perfectly. He certainly has a very good eye and aesthetic that adds to the overall film’s quality, despite having some ’Please visit New Zealand’ shots towards the end of the film.
The true star of the film has to be Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Thorin Oakenshield. Not only is the character written to have a genuinely interesting and pathos-filled character arc, but Armitage’s excellent performance simply makes the character’s struggle shine. His acting combined with a few directorial tricks, such as using Smaug’s voice in key scenes, truly make the greatness of the film.
As for the other stars… Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins is rather dull, fumbling and stammering his way through the film without showing one iota of emotion or compassion towards other characters. The rest of the dwarves are quite forgettable, along with the human characters too. The White Council was also wasted as none of the great actors in this group had any screen time to do anything. Finally, the character of Alfred was annoying, pointless and did not help at all to further the plot. He would not be missed if removed. But perhaps the lack of care for these characters is indeed the cost the film pays to have such a compelling character in Thorin.
The Battle of The Five Armies is a rather competent film, enjoyable even. But it overtly feels like Peter Jackson wanted to make another Lord of The Rings film with all of its spectacle; due to the source material’s lack of certain aspects, The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies is more of a whimper than a bang of an ending to such a wonderful franchise.