Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Fantasy, Rated: PG
Running Time: 144 minutes
Release Date: December 17, 2014
Baggins: Single, P-PP Emotional, Pro (Classic Lone Hero)
Sauren: Single, N-N, Ant (Untransformed Pure Evil Villain)
Orcs: System, N-N, Ant (Untransformed Military Villain)
Greg, it looks like we finally made it to the final installment of The Hobbit.
It looks like we’ll finally break the habit of watching The Hobbit.
The film opens with the tiny hamlet of Laketown being devastated by Smaug, the oversized, fire-breathing dragon. Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) is helping many of the towns’ citizens evacuate the ravaged city, and meanwhile Bard (Luke Evans) climbs a tower and manages to slay the smug Smaug using the black arrow. Bard leads the townspeople to safe refuge at the ruins of Dale, not too far from Mount Gundabad.
Meanwhile back at the mountain, King Thorin is affected with the dragon’s fever and will not give up any of his gold. Meanwhile, the Orcs are planning an all-out assault on the mountain. Meanwhile, Gandalf is being rescued from a far-away place by the queen of the elves. There’s a lot going on in this final installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.
Greg, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a worthy conclusion to the Hobbit trilogy (which wasn’t a trilogy). We’ve been dazzled by the CGI virtuoso of modern movies before, but this film somehow manages to exceed the highest standards set in previous filmmaking. Seeing the Battle of the Five Armies in 3D did enrich the experience; I was blown away by the magnificent realism of every scene, especially scenes involving hand-to-hand combat. It seemed like I could discern every speck of dust and drop of blood. It’s a truly an astonishing and mesmerizing experience.
More important, of course, is the story. As you mention, there is no shortage of characters here, nor is there a shortage of armies. Five is a lot of armies. Yet I didn’t feel lost or overwhelmed. What I did feel was fragmented. By that I mean that the decision to break up the Hobbit into pieces, and then to deliver each piece a year apart, leaves me unsatisfied from the standpoint of coherent storytelling. This film gives us the final third of a single story, and it felt limited in that way because it is limited. I did enjoy Five Armies but the piecemeal delivery of the storyline has been less than fulfilling.
You’re right about the high quality of this movie. The images were filmed with stereo 5K cameras at 48 frames per second. That technology provides a level of crispness that was heretofore impossible for film. The result is an image that resembles live action. At first I found it distracting. But soon I was drawn into the story and the realism enhanced what I was watching. It was a revolutionary experience.
We have quite a collection of heroes in this story. The main hero is Bilbo Baggins. He undergoes a transformation from a quiet Hobbit happy to live in the shire to a true adventurer. We like our heroes to transform and Bilbo covers the gamut. The dwarf king, Thorin, is especially interesting as he traverses the range of heroism to villain back to hero again. King Thorin is on a quest to reclaim his lost kingdom and treasure. But once he regains his gold, he gets dragon fever and becomes obsessively greedy, not willing to share a coin even with those who helped him. But once Bilbo gives him a good talking to, he returns to being a noble king, willing to share the wealth with those who are deserving. We like to call this kind of hero the “round tripper” as they go from heroic, to villainous, and then return as a redeemed hero.
No question there are plenty of heroes and villains to discuss here. I enjoyed witnessing Bilbo grow in his courage with the help of Gandalf as his mentor. His transformation is underscored by his return trip home to Bag End. Nearly all of his belongings have been auctioned off in an estate sale, signalling the shedding of his old self and the celebration of his new persona. As befitting a classic epic tale, there are other heroes, of course. But Bilbo deservedly takes center stage here.
This film features a formidable array of villainous characters, too. Foremost are the Orcs, who embody a pure, relentless evil. The other intelligent races that populate this movie have a richness and diversity within them, but not the Orcs. They are all interchangeably evil. One scene near the end of this film truly disappointed me. It was the Fatal Attraction demise of the head Orc, who appears to be dead underwater until his eyes pop open and he bursts up to fight one last fight before being vanquished (again). When, oh when, is this gimmick going to be put to bed for good?
I enjoyed The Hobbit but found that three films really milked the story. The action was often slow and lumbering. The final fight scene was pretty impressive. Again, the technology was at the fore delivering amazing effects. However, I was disappointed that, yet again, the giant eagles flew in to save the day. I give The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies 4 out of 5 Reels.
Bilbo and King Thorin make for great mythical heroes. Bilbo starts out as naive and grows into a courageous and moral hero. King Thorin starts out as a great leader then falls into the depths of villainy when he is overcome by dragon fever. But he is redeemed in the end. This is a great example of the redemptive hero. I give them 5 out of 5 Heroes.
The Orcs and Sauron are clearly pure evil villains. We don’t get much insight into why they’re so bad. Although with the introduction of Sauron we see that the Orcs and their leader Bolg create a hierarchy of evil. I give the Orcs 3 out of 5 Villains.
From a technical standpoint, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is an outrageously successful film. Never before has CGI realism achieved such a majestic level of excellence. The story itself was the final third of a novel that was not intended to be partitioned into three units, and so I was left with a sense of incompleteness. Still, there is much to celebrate about richness of the Tolkien universe and the heroism of the characters, especially Bilbo Baggins. I’m therefore happy to award this movie 4 Reels out of 5.
I will grant you that Bilbo follows the classic hero’s journey, but this film only shows us the final leg of the journey. Consequently, I didn’t see him change or evolve much in this particular movie. I agree with you, Greg, that Thorin is a round tripper hero who moves from hero to villain and then back to hero again. We saw this earlier this year in Maleficent. But what triggers these changes in Thorin? Dragon sickness is apparently the answer. But why don’t the other dwarves catch this disease? And how do a few words from Bilbo snap him out of it? Earlier speeches from others didn’t do the trick. So I’m going to curmudgeonly give this movie 3 Heroes out of 5.
The villains were monolithically evil and not terribly interesting. One could say that Thorin’s dragon sickness was a “Man versus Nature” villain, but that’s a stretch. There are interesting glimpses of villainy among the Laketown residents, elves, and dwarves. These character types were fun to watch and added depth to a fragment of the story that truly needed some depth. Overall, I’ll give a rating here of 4 Villains out of 5.