Written by: Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace
Translating any story to another medium certainly gives an opportunity to freshen things up and provide perspectives not originally shared in the original text. It allows for certain changes to be forgiven due to curiosity built through providing a differing look, but the benefit of the doubt could no longer be afforded in the journey taking place in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies because when given an inch, these films took an acre. This only leaves the major change of fabricating a whole boring battle sequence unforgivable.
Now with Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) set free and set on wiping out Laketown, Bard (Luke Evans) sets out to complete what his father could not. Meanwhile, with Erebor no longer in danger due to Smaug’s departure, Thorin (Richard Armitage) demands Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the other dwarves search for the Arkenstone as the young Hobbit begins to see the dragon sickness from all of the gold getting to the dwarf leader.
Three movies into a trilogy based on a 300-page book and having the gall to focus on a war that Bilbo did not witness, therefore having no idea what occurred outside of the aftermath really shows the people behind this trilogy just wanted to print money. Sure, moving it into the medium of film provides an opportunity to show something Tolkien did not present in his novel, but perhaps it was part of the entire point. Having Bilbo fight in the actual battle itself gives off such shrug-inducing feelings from this reviewer but the worst aspect of it all comes from how boring it all gets presented.
In reviews of the first two films, there has been more coverage about how visually ugly these films are but none more than this one have it look so lifeless. CGI orcs everywhere to be seen and boring battle sequences give off the feeling of simply watching a video game rather than viewing a war with incredibly high stakes. You have five armies composed of men, elves, dwarves, orcs, and other creatures in what should be something especially epic, but on-screen it just looks like a big gray mess lacking the necessary gravitas. The stark difference to the battles taking place in the first trilogy could not be more striking seeing as pretty much everyone in the battle barely got any screen time or character work for the audience to truly care for them. You have the dwarves behind their wall in Erebor and then an elf king willing to sacrifice thousands of soldiers over some jewels. The emotional stakes feel hollow and the visual representation doesn’t do any favors either.
Looking at the positive side, everything happening behind the wall of Erebor brings the goods as you see Thorin begin to lose his mind from all of the gold and the obsession of finding the Arkenstone. This adds wrinkles to the relationship the dwarf king has with his comrades and how quickly he would turn the scrutiny over to them because of his obsession with obtaining this particular stone. This ultimately puts Bilbo in an odd place where he feels he must withhold this stone from Thorin for fear of what the dwarf will do once obtaining everything he wants. The Thorin seen in this film only appears in small flashes in the previous features, but it shows the genetic struggle he has yet to overcome with not much time seeing as everyone else is trying to get into Erebor to take what they believe is theirs.
However, just when you can enjoy the moments held here, you have more unnecessary nonsense like what occurs with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and how he encounters the spirit of Sauron and eventually gets some help from some beloved characters we all know and love. A scene in the same place that made McKellen break down from having to act with nothing but green screen around him and serves absolutely no purpose in the story other than further padding out these films with connections to the previous and far superior trilogy. Like, you can cut out all of those scenes and it would not impact the main story, so what was the point of their existence? Only cynical answers remain, unfortunately.
Finally wrapping up this film gave me some sort of sigh of relief, the kind where I can say I did my due diligence and gave The Hobbit trilogy an honest try. I really did, but Battle of the Five Armies takes what has made this trilogy so derided and turned it up to the highest degree. A hideous-looking film showing the individuals behind this feature simply do not care for what made the initial foray into Middle Earth so special and impactful for many, like myself. Soulless, visually boring, and a battle lacking any sort of emotional stakes to such an unfortunate degree.