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

The-Hobbit-Battle-of-the-Five-Armies-poster-9-691x1024Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ryan Gage, Billy Connolly, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Sylvester McCoy, Stephen Fry, Manu Bennett, John Tui

Directed by Peter Jackson

Expectations: The highest of high.


The Hobbit, as a whole, is hands down one of the most entertaining fantasy films out there, and The Battle of the Five Armies is perhaps the most entertaining piece of the trilogy. The idea that the films are bloated and stretched too thin remains somewhat incomprehensible to me. I can understand if you think the Tauriel/Kili love story is unnecessary — because it totally is — but it also allows for elves to hang around and do a bunch of slick elf stuff, so I don’t really see a problem. In any case, the richness that three films brings to this adaptation is exceptional. I can’t even imagine a one-film version, or even two films. If that was the case, so many of my favorite “unnecessary” moments would be left unseen.

This film picks up immediately after the events in Desolation of Smaug, as Smaug flies towards Laketown to burn it a new one. This is one hell of a thrilling opening, and it whets the appetite for what’s to come… basically two solid hours absolutely bursting at the seems with thrills. I can’t really think of a film quite like it. It’s nothing like either of the previous Hobbit films because the adventure the party set out on is essentially complete. The dragon has been slain, Erebor has been re-taken, what’s left but to dive headfirst into the gold like an unkempt, bearded Scrooge McDuck? Apparently a lot! The Battle of the Five Armies is also nothing like the Lord of the Rings films, so don’t expect anything with the weight of Return of the King just because this is the third film of a trilogy. The Hobbit is and always will be a lighter tale that happens before everything in Middle Earth went to hell in a handbasket, so it’s just wrong to expect it to hit the same way as Lord of the Rings.

The-Hobbit-Battle-of-the-Five-Armies-poster-1-703x1024Perhaps the greatest scene in the entire film, though, is one that recalls Lord of the Rings the most. In Desolation of Smaug, Gandalf is left in a cage in Dol Guldur, prisoner of the necromancing shadow reforming into the Dark Lord Sauron. Since Gandalf shows up at the end of the novel — and in Lord of the Rings, for that matter — you know he will make it out alive. But it’s all in the “how” of the thing that makes it so outstanding. I’m not well-versed on Tolkien’s appendices, so I’m unsure how much of this scene I’m being vague about is Tolkien and how much is Jackson, but I do know that the end result is absolutely amazing. And this is exactly the kind of thing that would have been completely excised if the film held true to only what is written in The Hobbit.

By including material from the appendices, specifically what Gandalf gets up to while Bilbo and the dwarves venture onward, The Hobbit trilogy is able to become the prequel it needed to be to the Lord of the Rings films. Yes, “needed.” With a specific focus on only telling the novel’s story, The Hobbit films would seem largely unrelated to the previous version of Middle Earth and even more tonally different from Lord of the Rings than they already are. With an established screen version of the universe already in place, Jackson and everyone involved would be a little daft not to at least make use of it, if not expand upon it. By delving into Tolkien’s appendices the authenticity is there as well. And besides, without these sections can you imagine the current crop of nitpicky reviewers not finding fault with Gandalf leaving the party at towards the beginning of Desolation and only coming back partway through Battle of the Five Armies?

hobbit-battle-5-armies-poster-richard-armitageThis might just be my perception, but the CG work looked incredible. A lot better than the previous films even. Either that, or this is a strange side effect of re-watching the first two films recently on DVD, and then experiencing the third film in its intended 48fps 3D. Whatever it is, every frame looked FANTASTIC. I feel bad for the clean-up crew that had to mop up the huge puddle of drool around my seat. I think I’m one of the few that actually likes 48fps, or at least find it incredibly interesting. Coupled with the 3D, there are times when 48fps looks more like you’re on set with the characters instead of watching them in a movie. For instance, depending on camera placement and focusing and such, Tauriel sometimes looks more like a cosplayer than an actual movie elf. This “reality” is both off-putting and highly immersive. What’s most disconcerting are the shots where it looks more like real life, but yet there is some camera depth of field or focusing that the human eye is incapable of. It kinda fucks with your brain a bit. 48fps is also supposedly the reason Peter Jackson had to ditch force perspective shots, scale models and some other practical FX (which feels odd to note here as it felt like Battle of the Five Armies contained more built sets and practical FX work than either of the previous Hobbit films). Anyway, I like 48fps. I don’t really care to see any other movies use the format, but the immersion of the 3D really is on a whole different level. And I don’t care at all about seeing movies in 3D.

It’s probably unnecessary to say at this point, but I loved The Battle of the Five Armies. I’m sorry for anyone that can’t have fun with it because the Hobbit films, especially this latest one, are the kind of fantasy filmmaking that fans have dreamed unsuccessfully of for years. Upon my first viewing of the concluding chapter of Lord of the Rings, I hoped that the trilogy’s success would lead Hollywood down similar paths, greenlighting lots of exciting high fantasy tales. It still has yet to happen, and at the end of Bilbo’s journey, 11 years later, I don’t hold any similar dreams. Thus, I savored every entertaining, high-fantasy minute of The Hobbit‘s “bloated” runtime, and it has left a huge smile on my face.

10 comments to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

  • Stephen

    I’m eager to see how this trilogy pans out. I’m currently rewatching the first two to get caught up on things. Hopefully I’l be able to get my butt to a theater soon. (I do like to wait a bit to let the crowds die down.)

  • Holy Hell, thanks for the theater reccomendation Will I was going to wait until the dvd/blu ray, really glad I didn’t. The frame rate reminded of those old Hitchhiker’s Guide British production [pretty much all British TV stuff], except with Jawdropping 3d visuals and effects. Reminded me of when I saw The Abyss, T2, and Jurassic Park back in the day. Merry New Year!

    • Glad you liked it! 48fps does have a video/TV look to it, but I always find that I don’t notice it all that much after the first few minutes. The CG looks better to me also, because of the added depth and resolution. But man, that 3D is so immersive. I feel like lots of people are spoiled and have forgotten how to be wowed at special FX now, so that’s awesome that you were reminded of the big groundbreaking FX movies of the past. Those same movies blew my mind when they came out, so I know exactly what you’re talking about.

  • I’m won over by the 48fps. 24 has been bugging me ever since I found out it causes choppiness in slow camera movements:

    Also it’s ancient technology by film standards and is in need of upgrading. People NEED to listen to trained and experienced experts like Peter Jackson. The Tv look is something that people will easily get used to after they watch 10 hours of a 48fps TV show. And the moment’s in the movie that really sold me; seeing Smaug, those awesomely realistic CG Antler’s on the animal being ridden, and the giant CG Orcs man I forgot they were computer’s they just became real. And yeah, I group most CGI creatures and plastic surgery on actor’s faces in the same category, [general consensus; it doesn’t work!]

    • Yeah, there are definitely inherent “problems” that come with filming at 24fps, and the motion stutter is one of the most obvious ones. I don’t have a home projector so I don’t know if it’s as pronounced as that article makes it out to be, but I was never too bothered by it to be honest. 48fps on The Hobbit makes the battle sequences much easier to follow and a whole lot more fluid, though, that’s for sure. But I do think that much of what people think of as cinematic is hinged to 24fps. That’s a big reason why the 48fps has gotten such flack from critics and critical moviegoers. I like it as it’s own thing, but I definitely don’t like how video-y it looks. And I wonder how other movies that aren’t so FX driven would look in the format. Like what would separate them from TV shows at that point. I like that there’s a visual difference in quality between the two, although it’s been growing closer and closer as the years move on.

      But yeah, some of that stuff in The Hobbit looked totally real. The 3D is so immersive in 48fps that it’s easy to get lost in that world. Lots of big-budget stuff could definitely benefit from using the format.

  • Andrev

    I’ve always preferred The Hobbit to Lord of the Rings, as it’s a self-contained story that doesn’t run-on too long and neatly charts the change in Bilbo Baggins, from a stay-at-home hobbit to a seasoned adventurer. It’s a good story. The film adaptations fall on their face because they stray from the central narrative and shoehorn-in numerous asides (whilst relegating some of the book’s detail to footnotes) and focus on battles in which the CGI gets the better of the plot. I really think the films should have Tolkien’s name removed – they aren’t his story, they’re Peter Jackson’s.

    • Thanks for coming by and commenting! What you say about the Hobbit films straying from Bilbo and having extra content is true, but for me I don’t think it makes the adaptations bad at all. If a film was made to the letter from the book, I feel it would have been very disappointing and wouldn’t really take advantage of the medium of film or the world built in the previous LOTR films. The book can focus on Bilbo and ignore the dwarves and everything else going on in the world, without any real issue, but in the film I think a hole would be felt, especially since Lord of the Rings has already been produced so people know where it all ends up.

  • Stephen

    I dont’ know why it took me this long to get to this film, but I’m glad I finally did. I thinks it’s definitely the best of the trilogy. I do have a few minor issues with how over the top the trilogy as a whole is at times (especially that giant golden statue at the end of part 2), but this conclusion was pure fun from start to finish. There was so much going on, and all of it was fantastic.

    • Yeah, it’s damn fun isn’t it? Glad you liked it so much. The trilogy is over the top at times, especially that golden statue thing, but it’s always fun so I don’t really care. Logistically that golden statue thing is fucking ridiculous and stupid, but I had the biggest grin on my face throughout that whole “light the furnaces” sequence. I’m really looking forward to re-watching the last one again, there’s so many little moments during the battle that I want to watch over and over again at home.

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